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2022 Pre-Season Analysis Empty 2022 Pre-Season Analysis

Thu Aug 12, 2021 12:21 pm
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Hello AMTA community!

We at Mock Analysis Is My Drug are extremely excited for the unofficial beginning of the AMTA season with the case release coming up any day now! We’re all about to dive headfirst into preparing the case for early season invitationals.

As we do each summer, we put our heads together and made some preseason predictions about which teams look like threats in the coming year. Our aim is to start a discussion about where every program stands and where they’ll go moving forward. Of course, different cases play to certain styles and since the case has not been released we can’t factor that in—but we’d love to see your thoughts about whether it changes anything once it is. This post has 3 parts: (1) our MAIMD top 25 Power Rankings for the upcoming season, (2) a list of individual competitors to look out for, and (3), some predictions for this year’s tournament results.

One thing we have to flag here is that it’s not fully clear whether tournaments will be in person or online this year. AMTA indicated around the time of the board meeting that they plan on having in-person AMTA tournaments, but that they may have to find accommodations for teams that are not permitted to travel by their schools. That accommodation worry may increase with the rise of the new Delta variant since the board meeting, and could force a pivot to an online season or to some sort of combination season. Compounding the weirdness is the fact that fall tournaments may be online even if spring tournaments aren't, meaning that people will have less of a chance to prepare and polish their in-person performances before Regionals and ORCS. Teams may well find themselves creating two different sets of demos (posters and powerpoints), training students to perform for a camera and also a courtroom, and learning two sets of rules and time limits. For younger students, the first time they will have to worry about live performance and all it entails (movement, volume, bottoms that aren’t sweatpants, etc.) may well be Regionals. If there aren’t in-person tournaments, we expect teams that are geographically near other strong programs to excel, as they can set up in-person scrimmages before the AMTA season. It would also reward older teams and coached teams whose veteran members can teach younger students the ropes of in-person performance. And of course, the return to in person may be an advantage to schools whose styles are better suited for that format.

Everything here is meant to start a discussion. We don’t expect everything we have to be correct or that everyone will agree with us. But we at Mock Analysis Is My Drug hope that you find this post interesting and engaging as we transition into another exciting year of mock trial!

Top 25 Power Rankings

Mock Analysis Is My Drug is pleased to include our Preseason Top 25 Power Rankings. These rankings were based on a composite of the rankings of all of our contributors, based on our own competitive experiences from previous seasons as well as tab summary analysis and number-crunching. These rankings are meant to reflect overall team power from the very first invitational all the way to the National Championship. We recognize that these types of rankings are inherently subjective.

1. Tufts A:
Coming in at the top of our preseason rankings are the Jumbos from Tufts, who have experienced a resurgence into the top level of AMTA over the past few years. There was a lot of hype around Tufts in 2019, but the air was let out of the tires a bit with a less than stellar finish at Nationals. In the 2019-2020 season, a senior-heavy Tufts team made it to the GCF final round, and in a year where there was no Nationals, that’s the best barometer we have. Then, this past year, a younger Tufts A team showed that their success was the result of program strength, not just a flash in the pan. They consistently placed well at invitationals, culminating in a 10-0-2 record at one of the hardest ORCS and a 2nd place finish at NCT. Tufts’ NCT run is made even more impressive by the fact that they had the highest CS in the past half-decade at a whopping 43, including straight splits against both UCLA (featuring eventual TBC champion Audrey Shepard) and eventual National Champion, UMBC. Now, of course, attrition sometimes has its day. Tufts is graduating longtime star character witness Will Porter as well as their openers in Oliver Marsden and OLT champion Will Wilson. But to say that those losses will knock Tufts out of contention to be the last team standing in 2022 would be to ignore the incredible team that is still around. They return 5 members of the A team that just placed at NCT. This includes Brett Sachs, one of the best emotional witnesses in the country, rising stars like Fatima Lawan and Margaret Veglahn, and their two All-Americans in expert witness Alexander Thompson and TBC finalist Bennett Demsky. Demsky also may be the best captain currently on the circuit, and on a student run team, that can mean everything. With an activity like mock trial, it’s too subjective to say anything is a lock. But we have Tufts ranked #1 because we think the odds that Tufts Mock Trial is your 2022 NCT champion are better than they are for anyone else in AMTA.

2. Yale A:
Don’t bet against Yale. They have weird seasons. They get sanctioned. They don’t make it out of Regionals. And yet, somehow, they are still in the NCT final every year for more years than Will Warihay can count. The team they put in the final was young this year, too. They won’t graduate a single member of their 2021 NCT team and most of them still have several years to go. They also have a fair amount of depth, with a B team that was one ballot away from getting a bid out of ORCS despite being almost entirely freshmen, and an All-National Witness (who competed on their A team at ORCS), Christina Robertson, who didn’t even compete at Nationals. So at this point, we would be fools not to predict Yale returning to the NCT final next year (no matter how wacky their season is before that). One thing holds us back from putting Yale in our top spot, however. Returning teams from Yale haven’t always had the best of luck in recent years. In 2016, Yale should have kept most of its NCT championship team, but they had a truly spectacular amount of attrition. In 2017, Yale did return all of their 2017 NCT final round team, but that team crashed and burned at NCT in 2018, only to be replaced by their B team. So while we expect Yale to pull magic out of a hat again, we also expect some weird ups and downs for them, and wouldn’t be surprised to see some very new faces on the team they send to the final round next year. Underestimate them at your peril.

3. UCLA A:
In a year where Rhodes, Miami, and Virginia all struggled, UCLA was the traditional power program that was able to meet expectations at Nationals. The Bruins are coming off a spectacular campaign where they won Great Chicago Fire and came 3rd at the NCT, and even though they’re losing perhaps the best opening duo in the country in Ellen Park and TBC champion Audrey Shepard, the core of this team remains intact. They retain a great deal of attorney talent in All-Regional Attorney Natalie Penn and All-National Attorney Camille Schaefer, and their group of witnesses is headlined by All-National award winner Connor Nickson and his teammate Andrew Moon, who posts a lot of memes—and also happens to be quite good at the witnessing stuff. With an NCT-caliber B team as good as any in the nation and a stable of C, D, and E teams that consistently earn bids out of Regionals, UCLA has depth to draw on that is unparalleled on the AMTA circuit. This is a team that has achieved a remarkable level of success over the past decade: in the last 10 years, they’ve won 2 NCT titles and placed in their division 9 times. That consistency was on full display at the NCT this year. Much ado has been made of Tufts’ CS of 43; let’s not forget that UCLA was right behind them at 39, the fourth-hardest Nationals schedule since 2016. This team had to play the season’s GAMTI winner in Miami (who at that point were also still, technically, the defending National Champions), 9th place Penn State, a Duke A team that came 4th, and Tufts. Almost the entire UCLA team that battled through that schedule to come 3rd should be back for next year. They may not be our #1 favorite to take home the Richard Calkins trophy, but if they win, no one will be surprised. They’ll be right there at the end, just like they always are.

4. Virginia A:
To the casual mock trial observer, this ranking probably makes a lot of sense. They’re Virginia Mock Trial. They’re the paragon of consistency, of excellence. But to those of you who have been dialed into tournament results over the past year and a half, a ranking this high might not seem quite right. After a decisive victory over Tufts in the 2020 GCF final, they struggled at ORCS, where they failed to earn a bid just before the onset of the pandemic. And they kept on struggling into 2021, where despite some high placements at invitationals, they scraped through ORCS and failed to achieve even an honorable mention at Nationals, an incredible fall from grace for a program that has finished right near the very top of their division for half a decade. Their TPR is miles underground by Virginia standards—outside the top 25 for the first time in we-don’t-know-how-long. So why did we rank them inside our top 5? Well, here’s your answer: they’re Virginia Mock Trial. And we’re confident they’ll be able to return to the consistency—to the excellence—that we’ve come to expect from the Cavaliers. They’ve got 3 All-Americans: attorney James Orr, expert Albert Kwon, and our pick for best witness, Indiyah Mabry, who can play anybody. They’ve got one of the nation’s best openers in Isabelle Mayor-Mora and an army full of very accomplished coaches. And they’ll (possibly? probably? hopefully?) be back in person, where they can deploy their tried and true strategy of slowing down time and out-cleaning every single team they play with lethal precision. Just in case you’re wondering: we have no idea what will happen with their coaching staff if their head coach Toby Heytens is confirmed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but who knows? Maybe his law clerks will be able to help with the content writing.

5. Patrick Henry A:
Patrick Henry A rounds out the top 5 of our list with one word in mind: consistency. With somewhere between 10-15% of their entire college doing mock trial depending on the year, Patrick Henry is one of the few programs with the ability to field a competitive E team. This past year, four of their five teams earned bids out of Regionals, with the lone exception being their B team, with 5 wins. They then sent their stacked A and a split B/C team through to Nationals and both teams placed in the top 10. Patrick Henry A finished second in their division, right behind Yale. This kind of success isn’t something new for Patrick Henry either. In 2020, all four of their teams earned six or more ballots at Regionals before the season was cut short due to COVID, and in 2019, they placed 4th in their division at the NCT. The reason we’ve placed Patrick Henry in our top 5 is because while they rarely finish first in a tournament, they usually follow close behind—and if a team places near the top at Nationals enough times, one of these years they’ll break through to the final round. Will this be the year? Well, they definitely have the talent for it! TBC competitor and two time All-American double threat Benjamin Crosby will return for his senior year alongside All-American David Bainbridge, who earned more ranks than any other attorney at Nationals this year except Sydney Gaskins. On the witness end of things, they’ve got an All-American rising sophomore in Caleb Knox. Patrick Henry has in no way achieved the multiple decades of success that Miami, Rhodes, Virginia, and UCLA have, but their program has close to the same level of institutional capability as those teams. This is a talented team with a great coaching staff that we fully expect to place in the top 5 for a third consecutive Nationals.

6. Emory A:
Emory has had a weird couple of years. They sent two teams to Nationals in 2019 and in 2021. This past year in particular was an undisputed triumph for Emory, who finished 4th in their division and was in serious final round contention going into the 4th round of Nationals. But those successful seasons bookend a disaster 2020 for Emory, where their A team’s season ended a little bit before the seasons of other elite A teams did—not because of the pandemic, but because they failed to earn a bid out of Chapel Hill Regionals. So it’s worth noting, at the outset, that this is a program capable of some very high highs and prone to some very low lows. Emory probably has more top-level attorney talent than anyone else in the country. If you’ve ever looked at one of our Pre-Regionals Top Performers lists, you’ve probably seen the name Sara DeLacey. She’s won a ton of individual awards, she won the award for best second chair at Trial by Combat, and she captained Emory to their Nationals placement. Then there’s Catherine Cole, who was an alternate at TBC this year. Next is Danielle Jacoby, an All-American, who captained and starred for Emory’s B team last year. But most impressive of all is Riya Lakkaraju, who won two All-Americans this year, as both an attorney and a witness—the first person to accomplish the feat in the same year since Columbia’s Rachel Sommers and Virginia’s Katie Villany both did it in 2016. Lakkaraju won more awards than anyone in AMTA last year and came 5th at TBC. If Emory wins it all this year, it’ll be because of that group of attorneys. Where they struggle, more often than not, is with their witnesses. Outside of their witness stars, Lakkaraju and fellow All-American Carson Sanford, Emory doesn’t always produce consistent witness performances. It’s been their blind spot before and could be again. The bottom line is that this team is poised to dominate the Southeast next year. Nobody in the region has nearly as much talent—their A team is graduating just one person. We’ll see if they can deliver.

7. Harvard A:
Harvard has had their ups and downs since winning the National Championship in 2015. But after a few near misses and a disastrous 2019 season that ended with no bid out of ORCS, they appear ready to challenge for the title again. This past year, a team composed of a few sophomores and a whole bunch of freshmen took 6th place in the rough-and-tumble Zeigler Division at the NCT. That’s no small feat, and it bodes very well for the Crimson. Harvard is led by one of the very best attorneys in AMTA right now, Travis Harper, who comes into next season fresh off a perfect 30-rank ORCS award, an All-American, and a top-eight finish at Trial by Combat—the last of which is a feat accomplished only by one other sophomore: Sydney Gaskins. He’s surrounded by talented performers in fellow rising junior and co-captain Stella Asmerom, as well as rising sophomores like Audrey Vanderslice and GCF and Regionals award winner Jessica Alexander. It’s worth noting that this is the least experienced team in the top 10 of our rankings; very few members of this team have even stood in the well of a courtroom during a round of collegiate mock trial, let alone attended ORCS in-person. But we’ve seen young student-run teams from the Northeast achieve some pretty remarkable things. And while Harvard doesn't exactly have Yale’s track record, they are still the only other uncoached team to make the final round since the introduction of the new case for Nationals. The question isn’t whether or not Harper and Asmerom can take a group of underclassmen to a placement at the NCT. They’ve already done that. The question is how high they can take them.

8. Duke A:
Duke was a powerhouse program this year. Their A team placed 4th in their division at NCT and their B team placed 5th, which makes them the highest-placing program this year. They have a knack for fielding standout talents, like 2020 TBC winner Sonali Mehta or 2021 TBC semi-finalist Seva Castleberry, and they’ve been led over the past few years by one of the best coaches in AMTA, Eric Roytman. Though Duke A is graduating important members in Castleberry and All-American A.G. Chancellor IV, their A team should return all their other stars. Attorneys like Juliana Mayer, Nellie Sun, and Kaleb Amare form a solid foundation for the Blue Devils, but where they’ll really shine is on the witness end of things. Rising sophomore Evan Chan is fresh off an All-National award, and rising senior Emil Zakarian has long been one of the very best character witnesses on the circuit. As for the spots vacated by Castleberry and Chancellor IV, Duke has one of the deepest programs in AMTA, and their B team that placed top 5 shouldn’t graduate a single person. Keep an eye on TBC second chair Jacob Hervey and All-American Witness Ronan Brew next season. We do have our concerns, though. Roytman just graduated from Duke Law, so it’s unclear whether or not he’ll still be coaching them next year. Another concern is that Duke’s strengths really played well on Zoom, but they don’t necessarily translate over to in-person mock trial. They’re very good with online demos and being a big presence on your screen, which has worked out well for them over the past year with two top five finishes, an OLT win, a TBC win and a TBC semi-final appearance, but if next year is in person, we’ll have to find out if their success was a product of the new format. Overall, Duke Mock Trial is going to be a formidable name in the Southeast this year, and we’ll be interested in seeing how they adapt to all of the changes in the coming months. If they can recapture the magic from this past year, we believe that Duke A has a high ceiling—with a chance to make it to the final round at the 2022 NCT.

9. Stanford A:
Stanford always gets close. And it’s for good reason. They’ve featured some remarkably decorated mock trial competitors over the last several years, and the team that placed 6th in their division at the NCT last year was no exception. They graduate All-American Witness Ayesha Pasha, and that’s it. The whole rest of their team should be back. All-American seniors like Elizabeth Grant (a 2021 Trial by Combat competitor) and Azam Janmohamed anchor the attorney benches for Stanford, and two time All-National Audrey Mitchell leads the way for the witnesses. They’ve got a few rising stars in sophomores like witness Robert Castaneros and attorney Meredith Fenyo. And they’re coached by Thom Scher, one of the best in the business. So it would be ludicrous to assert that Stanford isn’t one of the most talented and well-coached teams in the country. Here’s the problem: Stanford has been one of the most talented and well-coached teams in the country for a while now. They’re usually close. But they’ve yet to make the final round. For some reason, they’re just polarizing. Consider, for example, their ORCS run at 2-B this year: +36, +12, tie to Nebraska, +11, +10, -19 to Bowdoin, +17, +8, -5 to Michigan A, and three drops to Yale B. Their case theories are sometimes out-of-left-field, and their B team often out-performs their A team, like it did this past year, where Stanford A failed to earn a bid out of ORCS and Stanford B had to carry the water. As many copycat mock trial defense attorneys enjoy reminding us year in and year out: close enough isn’t good enough. We’ll be interested to see if this is the year that Stanford can finally break through to the very top.

10. Wesleyan A:
In 2019, Wesleyan sent two teams to the NCT and one placed. In 2020, both their A and B teams split GCF-runner-up Tufts A at ORCS, catapulting them to victory in Lancaster. Then came the pandemic. And with it came a predictably unpredictable year from Wesleyan. They tore up the invitational season—they won Yale, they came 2nd in their division at GCF—and then their B team made NCT and their A team didn’t. But a restacked team with only one member of their original A team showed up at Nationals and came 5th. All that history is simply to say that Wesleyan is an enigma. They fail when you think they won’t and they excel when you think they can’t. We have them in our top 10 because if there’s ever going to be a year that Wesleyan figures it all out, it will be this one. Although they lose several seniors including their two-time A captain and OLT finalist Virginia Sciolino as well as their longtime head coach, their roster is still laden with experienced talent, particularly in their rising senior class. Competitors like All-American Witness Kathryn Machanic, All-National Attorney Kathryn Campbell, character witness Elodie Frey, expert Sam Brumer, and attorney Jillian Pincus are part of a formidable Wesleyan A team that’s been around the block a time or two. And that’s not to mention the B team folks with NCT experience like Betsy Froiland, Alicia Paglia, and Alexander Seys. We don’t know how Wesleyan will stack their teams, we don’t know how AMTA will carve up the Northeast powers at ORCS, and we don’t know which Wesleyan will show up to the party. But if they can figure out how to achieve some measure of consistency, this team’s final round potential is very real.

11. Florida A:
If anyone on this list is coming off a breakout year, it’s Florida. In the past, Florida has been successful, but never quite at the top of the field. At the 2019 NCT, Florida A sent only one team to Nationals. That team finished with a losing record of 5 wins, placing them in the bottom quarter of their division. And even though their B team earned a bid to ORCS that year, they failed to earn a winning record, finishing with just 4 ballots. But Florida’s 2021 season was an entirely different story. It’s hard enough to win one bid to ORCS—but this past season, every single one of Florida’s five teams were able to earn a bid to ORCS. In fact, they earned more bids to ORCS than any other program in AMTA. So no matter who we see on Florida A this year, they are sure to be a solid threat. And that brings us to Nationals. After Florida A and B earned the 2nd and 4th bids out of their respective ORCS, they rose to new heights at the 2021 NCT. Florida A placed 8th in the Zeigler Division with 9.5 wins, and Florida B placed 3rd in the Nelmark Division with 12 wins. Along with Duke and Patrick Henry, Florida was one of just three programs to achieve top ten placements for both their teams. So why do we have them as low as 11th? Because they’re graduating a ton of talent. Kaitlyn Salyer, Jack Shea, Harrison DeVoe, Naomi Hardin, Abigail Shank, all gone. And while Florida has typically been a team that’s relied on strength across the board rather than one or two standout competitors to achieve their success, that’s a lot of star power to lose. Thankfully, they still have All-American Witnesses David Egloff and Sahas Chintakayala. We’re excited to see how they take up the mantle, and hopefully, keep Florida’s success streak alive.

12. UC Berkeley A:
The Golden Bears of Cal Mock Trial have an uncertain future ahead. On the one hand, they are and have been one of the most consistent programs on the West Coast. Year in and year out, they dominate the Pacific Northwest when they get sent up there for Regionals, they earn multiple bids to ORCS, they clean up on the West Coast invitational circuit, and they generally do well when facing top-level competition from around the country. On the other hand, they finished their Nationals run in 2021 with more losses than wins—a quiet ending to an otherwise spectacular year that saw them place at GAMTI and make an appearance in the GCF final. The real problem for Berkeley is that their A team is losing 4 of its 6 members, including all 3 of its witnesses: All-National award winners Gurbir Singh and Pablo Moraga, as well as Jennifer Jones. These three have been standouts on the Nationals scene for a few years now, and they won’t be easy to replace. The good news for the Golden Bears is that the two A team members who should come back form one of the best one-two punches in AMTA—All-Regional Attorney Rebecca Steinberg and All-National Attorney Kensington Cotter. Alone, Steinberg and Cotter make this Berkeley A team a threat, regardless of who steps up to fill the spots left open by the graduating seniors. This upcoming season will test the depth of Berkeley’s program, as members pulled up from Cal’s B, C, and D teams will not only have to fill the shoes of the graduating seniors, but also forge a path to success for themselves. We look to younger members like All-National Attorney Ravi Patel, All-National Witness Jasmine Kamalnathan, and All-Regional Witness Jacob Patel to fill in the gaps for the Golden Bears. Needless to say, Cal has heaps of talent within their program, and though it may seem like a rebuilding year, if they play their cards right, we have no doubt that this team has potential to be in the final round.

13. Miami A:
It might seem odd to see Miami, one of the mock superpowers of the Midwest, outside of our top 10. In truth, this prediction has little to do with Miami’s underwhelming performance at this year’s NCT. With a first-place GAMTI finish and a near-perfect ORCS record, the 2020-2021 season was a great year for the Redhawks, even if it ended a bit differently than we’re sure they would have liked. The real issue, we expect, is going to be how Miami tackles moving past this season and rebuilding a solid A team. Miami A graduated a significant number of exceptional competitors this past spring—losing three out of their four A team attorneys and two of their witnesses. Their returners are strong in their own right—Catherine Lammersen cleaned up this past season on both sides of the case as an attorney and as an expert, and returning All-American and GAMTI award winning witness Jamie Coughlin has a pretty decorated record for a second-year competitor—but it’s not clear who’s going to step up to carry the rest of the load. This past season, Miami B failed to get a bid out of Regionals with a record of 3-4-1, losing ballots to far less experienced programs like the University of Colorado and Dillard University. History shows us that Miami has come back from graduating talented classes before, and it’s completely possible this poor Regionals record may not reflect all that B team had to show in the courtroom—but we expect coach Neal Schuett to have his work cut out for him in getting his new Miami A lineup performing at the level where we’re used to seeing the Redhawks perform.

14. UMBC A:
If you’re wondering why the reigning National Champion is ranked outside our top 10, the answer is easy: no more Sydney Gaskins. The 4-time All-American and 2020 TBC finalist is off to law school, and there’s no sugarcoating it—UMBC mock trial is worse off for her departure. But like we told you in our preseason power rankings last year, this team wasn’t a one-woman show, and the team that won the Richard Calkins trophy in April wasn’t either. Graduating Gaskins and All-American expert Thomas Kiley will hurt UMBC’s title chances, but it won’t kill them. Gaskins will pass the baton to Thomas Azari, a two-time All-American and a bona fide superstar in his own right. In the fall of 2020, when Gaskins wasn’t competing, Azari racked up a number of awards, and his natural likability and commanding presence is sure to win UMBC ballots. Throw in final round returners like Lauren Wotring, Maria Kutishcheva, Zinedine Partipilo, and another two-time All-American in witness Natalie Murray, and you’ve got a team that can go toe-to-toe with any of next year’s top squads. To anyone who doesn't think UMBC can compete without Sydney Gaskins, we can only remind you that the Retrievers have been dealing with this problem in miniature for a few seasons now: in 2019, they graduated a star in Nihir Nanavaty and were more than fine; in 2020, they graduated longtime opener Ethan Hudson and proceeded to win it all. Gaskins is certainly harder to replace than Nanavaty and Hudson, but coach Ben Garmoe is used to retooling his team with new talent. He’ll have to replicate the feat if he wants to keep his team at the very top in 2022. We don’t have UMBC penciled in to repeat as champions, but we expect the Retrievers to field a very competitive team and vigorously defend their title this year.

15. Northwestern A:
Every year, we think it’s Northwestern’s turn to break out. It goes a little something like this: they flash the talent they’ve got in spades at an invitational (like, say, their 1st place finish at Beach Party and 2nd place finish at Great Chicago Fire this year), they ace Regionals, they get by ORCS, and then they come in right at the bottom of the top 10 at Nationals. 2018: 9th place. 2019: 9th place. 2021: 10th place. Some people might look at that four-year path and see a cycle of stagnation. In reality, it’s a remarkable achievement. Just two teams have been able to place in the top-10 in 2018, 2019, and 2021: Yale and Northwestern. Not bad company for the Wildcats to keep. When we look at Northwestern’s roster, we see a team that’s poised—at long last—for something more. They’ve got maybe the most dynamic open/close duo that the circuit has to offer in Tahj Burnett (who won All-National awards as an attorney and a witness this year) and Ruby Scanlon, who was an alternate at TBC. All-American Witness Olivia O’Brien—who can play emotional witnesses and characters alike—should be back for a fifth year. And their B team is also one of the best in AMTA, so they’ll have plenty of talent to call upon, like All-National Witnesses Will Hopkins and Katherine Moore, for example. Northwestern combines the polish, realism, and likability that we’ve grown to expect from Midwestern powers with the calculated, outside-the-box theory choices one might find at a Northeast invitational. In a year where the upper echelon of Midwest mock trial could be markedly weaker than in the past (Miami, Northwood, Ohio State, and Chicago just aren’t what they were a year or two ago and we don’t have a single Midwestern school in our top 10), Northwestern is in pole position to carve up the region. This could be the year for them to finally break through.

16. Florida State A:
Since winning the 2013 NCT, Florida State has struggled to get back to the top of the mountain. Prior to the past season, Florida State hadn’t seen the inside of a Nationals courtroom since competing at the Greenville NCT in 2016. But the Seminoles turned things around in 2020-21 by having one of their most successful seasons in years. They absolutely dominated the invite season as the top performing southern program in the entire country. Their program also earned four bids to ORCS, which could certainly mean good things for their future A team. And after a four year drought, Florida State A finished with 9 wins and an Honorable Mention in the Zeigler Division at the 2021 NCT. If Florida State A is able to maintain their win streak, this year could be the one to mark their rise back to the top. However, it’s still worth noting that they were only able to earn one bid to the 2021 NCT. That could be a problem for Florida State this season, depending on how consistent their A team will be this year, and how many members they are losing. But even though they will be losing a few graduating seniors, they’re still retaining quite a bit of top talent for their A team this season. Just like last year, it’ll be the Abby Branham show in Tallahassee. She appeared at TBC after winning 10 awards as a sophomore, including a 37-rank All-American, and it doesn’t look like she’ll be slowing down anytime soon. But Branham isn’t the only standout competitor on Florida State. Madeline Bodiford won 7 awards last year alone, awarding as both a witness and an attorney. And Florida State’s incoming President Fernando Yzquierdo won 6 awards, including an ORCS award as a witness. As long as these three are on Florida State A, they will be a team to watch. But whether or not that will be enough to bring them another NCT Championship remains to be seen.

17. Chicago A:
Chicago graduates all four of their A team attorneys: Davis Pessner, Anna Stoneman, Henry Hopcraft, and TBC competitor Sahil Nerurkar. Graduating every single attorney from your A team is difficult to recover from no matter who the competitors are, but losing these four—a group that may have been the best collection of attorney talent in AMTA last year—is especially tough. Luckily for Chicago, they have a B team that collected an honorable mention at the NCT, and some of those B teamers will be more than able to step into bigger shoes: Ethan Hsi won 8 individual awards and an All-American as an opener and closer on Chicago B, and Chloe Duval and Sam Farnsworth are names that people on the AMTA circuit are going to know sooner rather than later. But let’s not beat around the bush—even if Chicago can replace their graduating class of attorneys, they’ve still got some problems. After all, that A team didn’t even earn a place at Nationals this year. Where Chicago struggled over the last year, against the very top level of competition, was with witnessing. They have a more-than-capable expert and character witness in Ali AlEkri, who second-chaired at Trial by Combat and won an All-American, but beyond AlEkri, the team has struggled to replicate the performances of past stars like Peter Bound and Caleb Cole. They’ve also been unable to replace the sheer dynamism and presence that Regina Campbell brought to the table. So on paper, it’s a little difficult to see Chicago ending up in the final round next year. That being said, this is a remarkably well-coached program that routinely throws unique arguments and innovative objections at every opponent they play. And they’ve got just as much depth as the Floridas and UCLAs of the world, with all four of their teams earning bids out of Regionals. This won’t be your Chicago team of old, but they’ll be a real tough out come ORCS and Nationals.

18. Rhodes A:
Before Yale’s unbelievable final round streak, no name was more synonymous with college mock trial than Rhodes. With a combined 9 final round appearances and 33 consecutive trips to the NCT going into last year, the Rhodes mock trial program has long seemed as indomitable as Father Time. This past year however, they missed out on the NCT after a lopsided +19, +8, -1 split with UVA B. After ranking 5-2-2-7-8-3-4-1-1 in the 8 years that AMTA has tracked TPR, for the first time they find themselves way outside of the top ten at 28th, and 18th in our power rankings. That drop might be attributable to a fluke online season, but there may be other reasons to worry. The 2021-22 Rhodes squad figures to be the first with no members trained in a program directed by retired head coach Marcus Pohlmann. While current head coach Anna Eldridge, who coached the 2018-19 team to an NCT Final, has proven capable of guiding the program to exceptional performances in the wake of Pohlmann’s retirement, we wonder if the reduction in Rhodes’ coaching staff has affected the program’s depth. As recently as 2018, 4 or 5 Rhodes teams all finished with greater than 7 wins at Regionals. This last year, Rhodes achieved just two earned bids to ORCS, at 6 and 5.5 ballots. The year prior, with in-person tournaments in full swing, it was also just two, at 7 and 6.5 ballots. Without her co-coach, Eldridge—though clearly talented in her own right—might not have the bandwidth to focus as much on the lower teams and could portend problems in the coming years as those younger members struggle to develop into Rhodes-A-caliber competitors. The recent downturn could simply be the result of bad luck, but the lack of successors to fill in those A team spots is concerning. That said, they do have some proven talent on the roster going into next year though, most notably All-National Witness Ace Cole and TBC second chair Elizabeth Baldwin. So while we expect Rhodes to continue to rule the mid-south, especially if ORCS returns to their hometown of Memphis, we are less sure of their chances at the NCT.

19. South Carolina A:
South Carolina burst onto the scene in 2019, going from not making it out of Regionals the year prior to not just qualifying to the NCT, but finishing above .500, dismantling Patrick Henry A in the process. Last year they were left without an ORCS due to COVID, though they finished 7-1 with a triple digit PD to pair at Regionals, the only ballot dropped due to +2, -4 split with Florida A. This past year, led by head coach Chance Sturup (who joined the coaching staff in their 2018-19 surge), they proved that they aren’t going away anytime soon, earning an NCT bid with 8.5 ballots at 2-B, though ultimately finishing a somewhat underwhelming 7-9. We expect South Carolina to continue to grow into a programmatic challenge to Florida’s dominance in the Southeast, with consistent polish and strong teams from top to bottom. That said, the Gamecocks are a tough team to evaluate, particularly with regard to their ceiling on the biggest stage. This year they came in losing two attorneys in Ben Garris and Ben Mutton, both of whom had captained the A team during the 2020 season. With no other losses on the witness end and another year of development for some strong young attorneys, their NCT finish left something to be desired. Given their strong coaching, depth, and star power in perhaps the most talented witness in the country in Hannah Perala, a top-end NCT finish appears far from out of the question—we’re just not sure why it hasn’t happened yet. This year they are losing President and attorney stalwart Tanner Wise, along with a reliable character witness in Maegan Carter. However, they are once again returning most of their major pieces, including junior attorney Ben Wallace, supplemented by another underrated junior, Gabby Worshek. On the witness side they retain Perala, who took home an All-American in 2019, though they lose Jacob Smith, who snagged one as an expert this year. All this is leaving out any of the performers that are coming back from the B-team that earned an honorable mention at 1-B ORCS. South Carolina is a program that has all the pieces necessary to shoot to the top of the circuit, but that’s easier said than done. If they will be able to put it all together, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be this year.

20. Penn State A:
Rounding out our top 20 are the Nittany Lions of Penn State—and this is a team to watch next year. While they haven’t always been the most reliable team over the course of the past decade, they’ve started to become a consistent Nationals presence over the past few years, earning bids in three of the past four years. That experience paid off at this past Nationals, where for the first time in at least ten years, they took home a trophy, earning 9th place in the Zeigler Division. Something Penn State usually lacks is one big-name standout competitor, but this year, they’ve found some star power. Jack Gaul is coming back for his senior year after being the only person in either division to earn an All-American witness award on both sides of the case. In addition to Gaul, they have President and All-National Attorney Dan Cohen returning for his senior year. Cohen has been one of the leaders of Penn State’s program for a while now, and they’ll likely be successful with him at the helm. They’ve got a few other names worth paying attention to as well: Abby Han had a strong freshman year on Penn State’s A team and has the potential to be an anchor for the Nittany Lions over the next few years, and Greydon Tomkowitz has been winning awards for Penn State over the past few years now, most notably an All-National Attorney award in 2020. The group also has some promising members of their B team who are sure to fill the gaps left by graduating seniors, like All-Regional Witness Josh Sanville. The Nittany Lions are a team on the upswing with a lot of talent, but how far that talent can carry them remains an open question. The team is sandwiched between the Northeast and the Midwest, and we’ve yet to see them dominate in either region. This year, we’ll find out if Penn State is able to continue their upward trajectory and make the leap from ORCS threat to perennial NCT heavyweight—or if 2021 was their peak.

21. Boston University A:
This is the fourth year we’ve published our preseason power rankings, and it’s Boston University’s first time making the list. This is in part because they sometimes struggle to stand out in their talent-packed region. But while Boston University is certainly in a tier below the Northeast’s current Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Yale, Tufts, Wesleyan, Harvard), they’ve recently managed to achieve a level of success that has eluded the other traditional powers in the region like Columbia, Brown, NYU, and Fordham LC: two NCT bids in two tries (their ORCS didn’t happen in 2020) that led to 7th and 10th place finishes in 2019 and 2021 respectively. This year, they were one of the large group of teams that had a real shot of making the NCT final in the Nelmark Division as of the end of round three, with their pathway only blocked by a brutal sweep from Yale A. And their path to being in that position is somewhat telling of BU’s strengths. They had convincing wins against lower-placing teams in their early rounds and then lost consistently to any team in the top 10. BU is a team that doesn’t play down. They don’t lose to teams that are worse than they are, which is a key component of success at the the ORCS level and may bring them more bids in the coming years. But BU also struggles to play up to the teams at the top. Going into next season, there is reason to believe that they may be able to continue their success. They’ve finally found their star in the post-Natalie Garson era: Sam Macriss is the real standout on this team, an All-American opener who can excel as a witness, too. Beyond Macriss, the team returns solid players in Sophia Poteet and Reva Bardhi. On the other hand, they graduate over half of the team that placed at Nationals. Those will be tough roster spots to fill, even with their ORCS-quality B team to pull from. Do we think Boston University can do better than they did in 2021? It’s certainly possible. But we’d bank on a very similar finish to the past several years. This will be a squad that will fight hard for every point on every ballot. No one should want to play them at Regionals or ORCS.

22. Ohio State A:
There was a time not too long ago when we’d have been likely to see Ohio State’s A and B team place in our top 25, but this year they came in just above our cutoff. That’s less a knock on their performance and more a statement of uncertainty—the fact is that no one really knows what a sizable part of OSU A’s bench is going to look like next year. They’re coming into their second year of fielding dual double-statement attorneys, which means that while the Buckeyes might have another up-and-coming Besman or Driscoll in their pocket, we simply haven’t gotten the chance to see them in a significant enough role for them to shine yet. Losing Michael Li as well as TBC competitor Clay Owens, who has been a mainstay on OSU’s A teams for a while now, is going to hurt—the two were the last attorneys on the Ohio State program from the era of Eric Roytman, Mahmud Bari, and Matt Besman. There is reason to be optimistic about OSU; keep an eye on rising senior Sarah Paul and sophomore Michael Ragnone, OSU’s two returning A team middles, to see if they can make sparks fly when given a statement. In terms of witnesses, the Buckeyes are going to be far more predictable. We’ll see standouts like Gabby Drachter and Adesh Labhasetwar return, as well as all-national expert Maddie Sisk and All-American and American treasure Tamara Joseph—who will be back for one more season of wacky, weird, and riotously funny witnessing. (Incidentally, if you want to see more of Joseph’s work, check out her Youtube.) In short, OSU has the skeleton of a very competitive team lined up for the 2022 season, but in order for them to make a push to regain some past laurels, we’re going to need to see talent come from some previously unseen places.

23. Michigan A:
Michigan has one of the strangest track records in all of AMTA. As recently as 2018, Michigan was a top 5 Nationals team and—after Yale—the second most powerful student-run program in the nation. And in the past three years, Michigan A has gone 23-0-1 at Regionals. Each year, when we look at Michigan A’s Regionals results, it’s easy to see how much talent, depth, and potential the Wolverines have. Then we get to ORCS, and they do well, but fall just short of earning a bid. In those same three years, they have a 18-10 record—missing out on a bid in each year by just a few CS points. So why do they make the top 25 on our list after their A team has failed to qualify for the NCT in three straight years? Well, Michigan B has more than made up for their A team’s shortcomings. Michigan B has earned a bid to Nationals in both of the past two years, and they placed 9th in their division in 2021. Much like Wesleyan, who also sent a B team to Nationals this year when their A team did not qualify, that leaves a lot of room for Michigan to succeed next year—with a full team of competitors who have Nationals experience alongside the bulk of their A team star power. There are a few names to keep in mind here, like All-National Attorneys Grace Roberts and Emily Kopp, All-American Witness Victoria Shahnazary, and All-National Witness Michael Wilson. Grace Roberts, in particular, is one to watch out for—she awarded at GAMTI, GCF, Regionals, and ORCS last year as a junior, and likely would’ve added an All-American attorney award to the list had she been at Nationals. We’d be surprised if she didn’t clean up on the awards circuit again this year. Will Michigan A earn a bid to Nationals? Or will it be Michigan B representing the Wolverines? Either way, we expect Michigan to be represented at NCT this year, and we expect them to do well there.

24. Northwood A:
This isn’t Chris Grant’s Northwood team anymore. They’re not going to blow teams away with shock and awe the way they would when Grant would stand in the middle of the courtroom and just... talk. And they’re probably not going to challenge the very top teams for a spot in the final round come April. But like we saw this past year, post-Chris Grant Northwood should not be underestimated. Their 8th place finish at the NCT is nothing to sneeze at, and it portends well for the Timberwolves. They feature some standout attorneys on the rise, like Elisse Richardson and Austin Wolfe, and their witness bench is anchored by expert Lukas Baker, who won an All-American witness award over his now-graduated teammates Simeon Lawrence—the best witness in AMTA last year—and Jacob “Old Man” Walters, a decorated witness in his own right. Losing the incredible performances that Simeon Lawrence brought to every round for the past several years won’t be easy for Northwood, but with a talented coaching staff headlined by AMTA board member and 2009 National Champion coach DeLois Leapheart, the Timberwolves are in more than capable hands. One problem Northwood will have to overcome next year is their inconsistent level of performance at the Regionals level. The past two years saw Northwood A fall just short of an earned bid out of Regionals, and they’ve had to rely on their B team and the open bid list to advance to the next level of competition. If they’re able to get to the NCT, we have no doubt that their experience at the tournament and their institutional knowledge will take them far. The key for this Northwood team will be getting there.

25. Patrick Henry B:
Completing our top 25 is our first and only B team to make the list. B teams are historically unpredictable for obvious reasons. If you have a strong B team one year, lots of those successful B team members will usually move up to the school’s A team the next year, and their spots are generally filled by new members or members on C, D, or E teams. For that reason, even the most successful programs have B teams that fail to qualify for Nationals, and it’s very hard to predict which B teams are going to have success in a given year. Sometimes it’s Yale, sometimes it’s Virginia, sometimes it’s UCLA, and sometimes it’s teams we don’t predict. We certainly didn’t head into this past season imagining that Duke B, Florida B, and Michigan B would be some of the most successful teams in the country! However, we still feel very comfortable ranking Patrick Henry B in our top 25. One of the reasons we’re so bullish on Patrick Henry B is that the team that finished 7th place in the Zeigler Division at the NCT was actually made up of some members from Patrick Henry’s C team! As we mentioned when we talked about Patrick Henry A, this past year, four of Patrick Henry’s five teams bid, with the lone exception being their B team. Their new B team for ORCS and Nationals was mostly the Patrick Henry C team, with a few members from the B team tacked on. The fact that a bunch of underclassmen who aren’t even on their school’s A team were in legitimate final round contention going into Round 4 should terrify the rest of the Mid-Atlantic mock trial circuit. These guys beat Georgetown, Northwestern, and Wesleyan at the NCT, and their only real loss was to the eventual champions, UMBC. While we’re not sure who will move up to A, stay on B, or go to C, Patrick Henry has proven that any team from their school can place at Nationals, and for that reason, we have more confidence in their B team than we do in anyone else’s.

Individual Competitors to Watch 2020-21

We analyzed tab summaries from the past three seasons as well as compiled thoughts based on the rounds that each of our contributors have seen. From that analysis, we’ve crafted a list of accomplished individual competitors returning for the upcoming season that we think will perform particularly well. Some of these individuals made the list for taking an extraordinary number of awards this year, others may have taken fewer awards (particularly if they were overshadowed by someone who has now graduated), but based on our experiences with these individuals we think all of them will be standouts this year. Please let us know who we’ve missed—we’re certain we don’t have every elite competitor in the country on this list!

NameSchoolYearRole2020-21 AwardsRelevant extras
Abby BranhamFlorida StateJrAttorneySoda City x2, Anteater, Wolverine, Swamp, Regionals, ORCS, All-AmericanTBC
Azam JanmohamedStanfordSrAttorneyTobacco Road, Soda City x2, Regionals, All-American
Bennett DemskyTuftsSrAttorneyYale, GCF, Regionals, All-AmericanTBC Final
Camille SchaeferUCLASrAttorneyGCF, RegionalsTBC Second Chair
David BainbridgePatrick HenryJrAttorneyAll-AmericanTBC Second Chair
Elizabeth GrantStanfordSrAttorneyMumbo Jumbo, Yale x2, GAMTI, Ramblin' Wreck, Regionals x2, ORCS, All-AmericanTBC
Ethan HsiChicagoSrAttorneyYale, GCF, Hilltop x2, Regionals x2, ORCS, All-American
Isabelle Mayor-MoraVirginiaSrAttorneyCharm City, Tobacco Road, GAMTI, Beach Party
James OrrVirginiaSrAttorneyRegionals, All-AmericanTBC Second Chair
Montana LoveYaleSrAttorneyGAMTI, Regionals, ORCS, All- American2021 NCT Final, TBC
Rebecca SteinbergUC BerkeleySrAttorneyNordic, Yale, UCLASSIC, GCF, Regionals x2
Ruby ScanlonNorthwesternSrAttorneyGOT, Beach Party, RegionalsTBC Alternate
Sara DeLaceyEmorySrAttorneyHabeas Hippopotamus, GOT, Tobacco Road x2, GAMTI, Ramblin' WreckTBC Best Second Chair
Thomas AzariUMBCSrAttorneyMumbo Jumbo x2, Tobacco Road, All-American x22021 NCT Champion
Travis HarperHarvardJrAttorneyMumbo Jumbo, George Floyd, Regionals, ORCS, All-AmericanTBC
Alex WilkersonWashington & LeeSrDouble ThreatHappy Valley x2, Colonial Classic, Classic City x2, Swamp, Cactus Classic, Regionals
Benjamin CrosbyPatrick HenrySrDouble ThreatRegionals, All-AmericanTBC, 2019 All-American Witness
Catherine LammersenMiamiSrDouble ThreatDemon Deacon, GOT x2, Tobacco Road, Wolverine, Regionals
Kynzie ClarkYaleSrDouble ThreatGCF, All-American2021 NCT Final, 2019 NCT Final, TBC Second Chair
Madeleine BodifordFlorida StateSrDouble ThreatColonel Classic, Soda City x2, Anteater, Swamp, Hoosier Hoedown x2
Riya LakkarajuEmorySrDouble ThreatClassic City, Mock at the Rock, Ramblin' Wreck x2, GCF, Regionals x2, ORCS, All-American x2TBC
Tahj BurnettNorthwesternJrDouble ThreatGAMTI, GCF, ORCS x2
Alexander ThompsonTuftsSrWitnessMumbo Jumbo, Yale, GCF x2, All-American
Brett SachsTuftsSrWitnessMumbo Jumbo, Yale, Regionals x2, ORCS
Emil ZakarianDukeSrWitnessGOT, GCF
Hannah PeralaSouth CarolinaSrWitnessCharm City2019 All-American Witness
Indiyah MabryVirginiaSrWitnessBeach Party, All-American
Jack GaulPenn StateSrWitnessColonial Classic, Classic City x2, Soda City, Hilltop, ORCS, All-American x2
Sean RogersYaleSrWitnessGCF, All-American2021 NCT Final
Tamara JosephOhio StateSrWitnessScarlet and Gray x2, Mumbo Jumbo, All-American

Mock Analysis is My Drug Preseason Predictions

Below, we’ve included our predictions for how some major events will turn out in the 2020-21 season. These are the result of a lot of discussion and debate among our contributors. As you would expect, and appropriate of the inherent subjectivity of mock trial, we weren’t able to reach a consensus on any of the questions. But the predictions below represent the majority opinion of our group. We’re particularly excited to revisit this list at the end of the year and see how we did! If you have other predictions like these feel free to share them.            

NCT Champion: Tufts

NCT Final Teams: Tufts & Yale

Most Likely for B Team to Outplace A Team: Stanford

Most Likely to be Undefeated Through Regionals and ORCS: Miami

Most Likely to Get Two Teams to NCT: Patrick Henry

GAMTI Champion: Virginia

GCF Champion: Tufts

Best Attorney: Bennett Demsky, Tufts

Best Witness: Indiyah Mabry, Virginia
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