In their first ever trip to the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) National Championship, Haverford’s mock trial team ended a successful year by taking 11th place (out of 48) in a tournament with much larger schools and well-established programs. The team was founded just four years ago by first-years Nick Barile ’18 and Jordan McGuffee ’18. Now seniors, Barile and McGuffee alongside Isabella Canelo Gordon ’18 led their seven-person A-team and two B-team members to Minneapolis, where they earned 6.5 out of 12 possible wins from their four match-ups.
Because there are no divisions in mock trial that separate schools based on size, the team regularly competes against teams from universities with tens of thousands of students, as well as a wealth of resources and years of program experience. For Haverford’s three senior leaders, such an impressive finish is a gratifying end to a four-year journey of building a team from scratch.
“The weekend was phenomenal,” said McGuffee. “It was definitely a great culmination of experiences. The fact that we started this program four years ago and made it to Nationals in our senior year is very satisfying. When we got our 11th place trophy, it was definitely one of the happiest experiences I think any of us have felt.”
The road to Nationals started with a first place undefeated record at Florida State University’s Seminole Smackdown tournament after a sweep over No. 4-ranked Georgia Tech. Then, a 7-1 finish at Regionals sent the team to the Opening Round Championship Series, where they earned a 6-2 finish after sweeping the No. 15 team in the country, Fordham, at Lincoln Center, to clinch the bid to Nationals.
The team squared off against Georgia Tech, William and Mary, Rutgers, and Harvard. With three possible “win” determinations per trial, they scored a total of six wins, five losses, and one tie. According to Barile, last weekend cemented Haverford as “a powerhouse” in the national mock trial scene.
“One of the things that has also been really exciting, in addition to discovering how much we can accomplish, was also how the further we got into this, the more connected we became,” said Canelo Gordon. “We started off as six people who met in a room. Now we have an entire program of people who learn together, hang out together, and travel together.”
The team started as only six members, which is the minimum requirement to compete. Without any coaching, much of what they learned was self taught. Over the years they grew rapidly and added a second and and third team, as well as advising from Pre-Law Advisor Jennifer Barr, and coaching and networking support from lawyers Jeff Monhait ’09 and Rahul Munshi ’06. Haverford Mock Trial now boasts 32 members from all class years and hosted their own tournament last fall, the Black Squirrel Invitational.
“In 2014, when Jordan and I met [in the Coop], there was no way that I would ever have envisioned us going to Nationals this young as a program,” said Barile.
The weekend was a success not just because of its results, but also for the recognition it garnered for the team and the legacy it leaves. According to Barile, success begets success in mock trial: more tournament invites lead to more experience for members, and Haverford’s name recognition has even led to prospective students inquiring about the team.
“We got added to this really cool community of teams around the nation,” said Canelo Gordon. “There are teams who are inviting us to their tournament next year, and asking to come to ours. We’ve met all these people from around the country, and we have other college mock trial teams that are our friends.”
Much of the team’s success depends on their chemistry not just as teammates, but as friends. Even against well-coached and experienced squads, Haverford’s team boasts impressive creativity, imagination, and the ability to adapt on the fly and play off of each other’s strengths.
Said Canelo Gordon: “It’s a team and a family.”