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Mock Trial team: More experience means great expectations

The 2013-14 Chemeketa Mock Trial team stops for one last photograph before heading to court at Oregon State University during last year’s Mock Trial Regional Tournament.

The 2013-14 Chemeketa Mock Trial team stops for one last photograph before heading to court at Oregon State University during last year’s Mock Trial Regional Tournament.

Article By Jesse Thompson–Photo by Maria Cruse

With more experience comes greater expectations for Chemeketa’s Mock Trial team.

Last February, Chemeketa’s Mock Trial team competed for the first time during a regional tournament held at Oregon State University. The tournament included teams from nationally recognized colleges and universities such as Stanford, Gonzaga, and the University of Oregon.

“I expect each of our students to give their best effort,” instructor Maria Cruse, the team’s coach, said. “If Chemeketa students give that effort, they can be competitive with any other team.”

However, competing at this level isn’t an easy task.

“Mock Trial is basically a trial simulation,” Cruse said. “Students do the work behind building a case and take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses.

“There are approximately 650 teams participating in the American Mock Trial Association competitions nationwide. Chemeketa is one of only a small handful of community colleges,” she said.

Cruse, an attorney with more than 15 years of experience, is a graduate of the Cornell Law School.

Experience is an important factor for success.

Cruse said, “Universities and four-year colleges can expect to have their students compete for four to five years, whereas community college students compete for two to three years. The additional two years of experience that teams from four-year institutions have is huge.

“In spite of the uphill battle community colleges face, Chemeketa students are bright and eager to learn.”

While it may be difficult to compete at this level, it’s a challenge that team members accept without hesitation.

Connor Amundson, a second-year team member, said, “There’s a stigma that comes along with being a community college – we have something to prove.

“I enjoy the competition. This year we’re much more prepared, and I know we can compete.

“Going to invitationals and participating in last years regionals have significantly helped us prepare for this year.”

But the workload required for a team to become competitive isn’t for the faint of heart.

Cruse said that, “In an effort to meet our expectations, students work together in building their theory of the case, developing all aspects of their presentation skills, engaging in simulations, and competing in invitational tournaments.”

“It involves a time commitment similar to any sport. But the payoff is similar as well – the opportunity to work together on a team to accomplish a common goal.”

While returning team members understand the commitment, new students don’t always expect how much work is required to make the team a success.

“It’s overwhelming at first,” Delia Rivera, a first-year team member, said. “It consumes you. In this class, you have to meet outside of class time, even on weekends and some week nights.

“Once you get the hang of the workload, though, you learn how to balance it all.”

Team members expect their hard work to pay off in this years regional tournament.

“After going to our first invitational and spending so much time on our case, I’m really looking forward to competing in regionals. I think we’ll do really well,” Rivera said.

Cruse and the team members also are looking forward to a successful future that extends beyond the regional competition.

“I expect the Mock Trial program to continue to grow, get stronger, and become more competitive,” Cruse said.

“My goal is for Chemeketa to be seen as a strong competitor in the Northwest Region.”

A Mock Trial Showcase and Reception event will be held at Chemeketa from 1 to 3 p.m. on January 28 in the auditorium in Bldg. 6. The event is free and open to the public.

Students who are interested in learning more about the Mock Trial team can contact Cruse by email at

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