Winona State University’s Mock Trial team was finally back in action this past Saturday, Nov. 13. The university’s mock trial team attended their first in-person tournament in more than a year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mock trial team was unable to practice or compete in person last school year, so everything had to be moved online. The last tournament the team was able to show up in person to was back in February of 2020 for regionals.
The team was hit hard during the pandemic. Taylor Purlington, a student at Winona State and member of the university’s mock trial team, has been in mock trial since high school, totaling to six years now. When asked about her experience with mock trial during the pandemic, she said “it was tough.”
She would go on to describe it as, “me in my room for a whole year, dressed up in a suit.”
The pandemic also affected the team in other ways. Graham Henry, full-time public defender and coach of Winona State’s mock trial team since the 2017-2018 season, said “the biggest way that it has affected us is that it prevented us from really being able to recruit people.” With all the restrictions and most classes being online, there weren’t many people on campus. He also stated that without in person meetings, it was hard to “get people through the door,” as well as teach people about what mock trial was.
Even now that many classes and campus events are in-person, the team has still had trouble recruiting new members.
Henry again cited the lack of in-person tournaments and meetings as one of the reasons for this.
“We’ve recruited in the past because people would go to other classes and talk about the tournament that we went to and how much fun it was, then the next practice they’d bring two or three people with them from some random class they were in,” Henry said.
Henry also said the largest problem for the team this year is simply spreading awareness for mock trial and trying to gain new members.
The team is excited to be back to doing practices and tournaments in person though.
Another Winona State student and member of the mock trial team, Mady Grulke, said “I really enjoy competitions especially once we really have the case down.”
Grulke also said one of her favorite things about being on the team is “hanging out with the team and all the weird inside jokes we have.”
Mock trial isn’t just for students practicing law, either. According to Henry, “no matter who you are, or no matter what you plan on doing after college, you can get something out of mock trial.”
Henry went on to list some of the skills that mock trial can reinforce, such as advocating for and defend- ing a position, public speaking and problem solving. It can even be used as experience for actors.
He also summarized the purpose of mock trial as a way to “help people learn and grow in a unique way”.
For anyone who wants to participate in mock trial, the team has meetings every Thursday night at 6 p.m. in Maxwell 272.