Competing against such long-time mock trial “Goliaths” as the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University, Lawrence University’s fledging second-year squad of make-believe defense attorneys, prosecutors and witnesses acquitted themselves so well at the recent American Mock Trial Association regional competition that they earned an invitational to the national semifinals.

Lawrence’s two entries in the 20-team (representing 13 institutions) regional competition at Marquette University Feb. 18-19 both earned bids to the 48-team national semifinal tournament March 17-19 at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. The other national semifinal will be held March 10-12 at Stetson University in Florida. The top six finishing teams at each semifinal advance to the national championship tournament April 7-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.

A maximum of two teams from any one school is allocated bids to the national semifinals following regional competition. Lawrence’s two teams earned invitations by finishing seventh and 10th. Only UW-Madison (1st, 6th) and Northwestern University (2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th) finished ahead of Lawrence’s top team. While both teams qualified, Lawrence declined its second bid and will select just one eight-person squad from among its 15-member team to represent the college at the national semifinals.

In addition to qualifying both teams for the national semifinals, two Lawrence students were recognized with individual awards. Senior Loni Philbrick-Linzmeyer and sophomore Caitlin Gallogly were two of 12 students cited with “outstanding witness awards” for their work portraying various witnesses in the trial.

“At most of the larger schools, mock trial is part of the curriculum in communication arts,” said John Peterson, an Appleton attorney who serves as the team’s trial coach. “It’s particularly gratifying to see Lawrence’s program progress so fast as an extracurricular activity.”

First held in 1985, the mock trial program is designed to provide undergraduate students opportunities to learn first-hand about the work of trial attorneys, understand the judicial system, develop critical thinking and enhance communication skills.

This year’s mock trial competition was based on a kidnapping case involving a 13-year old child. All teams are given pertinent information about the case in question, then 30 minutes before the start of each round, team members are assigned roles as either prosecutors, defense counselors or witnesses. Testimony and arguments are then made before practicing attorneys who serve as judges for the competition.

Members of Lawrence’s seventh place finishing team included seniors Philbrick-Linzmeyer and Tim Ruberton, juniors Candice Gangle and Maggie Helms, sophomores Katie Gladych and Leila Sahar and freshman Matt Sennewald.

Representing Lawrence’s 10th-place team in the regional were Gallogly, seniors Jeremy Bamsch, Evan Fye, Jonathon Horne, Serene Sahar and Markus Specks. Sophomore Valerie Raedy is also a member of the mock trial team but performed in Lawrence’s opera production last weekend and was unable to make the trip to Marquette. Marti Hemwall, dean of student academic services, serves as faculty advisor for the team.

Finishing behind Lawrence’s top team, UW-Madison and Northwestern at the regional competition were the host institution Marquette, the University of Chicago, Carthage College, Luther College, Northern Michigan University, St. John’s/St. Benedict’s College, Winona State University, UW-La Crosse, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Platteville.