Utah's Westminster College mock trial team takes down bigger California schools
Making history • This year's team will represent the region for the first time.
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The Westminster Mock Trial Team could be compared to seasoned athletes in many ways.

For one, like athletes, the members prepare for every trial with sweat labor, learning the ins and outs of their roles in daily practice. For another, they've begun watching "game film." Adviser Mike Scott sits the team down and plays recordings of the trials, rewinding what went well and where improvement is needed.

And, like the best athletes in the world, Westminster is moving on to the championship game.

For the first time, Westminster will represent its region in the Opening Championship Round, the second round of the American Mock Trial Association's annual national tournament. That competition is March 9 and 10 at the University of California Irvine. Along the way, the team had to take on schools such as the University of Southern California, University of California Berkeley and the University of Arizona — universities overwhelmingly larger than the small Utah college.

"It's like an NCAA Division III team playing against Division 1A teams," Scott said.

While Scott feels the support granted to the team by the administration has been outstanding, the access to the same level of resources is simply impossible. Larger universities are often granted budgets of more than $80,000 and have 80 to 100 students try out. At Westminster, anyone who auditions makes the team. The disparity makes the school's bid in the Opening Championship Round even more remarkable.

"It's a testament to how hard the students have worked," Scott said. "I show up and give them advice, but ultimately they're the ones that have to compete. They like the fact that we're the scrappy, little underdogs."

Scott began filming the matches not because he wanted to be more like Kyle Whittingham, but because he didn't feel comfortable coaching at the competitions in the first place. He would attend every event when he started coaching three years ago, but noticed a distinct increase in nervousness and frustration with him there. The camera became his eyes and ears instead.

"As nerve-wracking as it is — no one like to see themselves — it's been really useful," Scott said. "It's really helped us target the things we need to work on."

Senior Nicole Bedera, the team captain, received the outstanding attorney award at regionals, one of only two students to score a perfect 20. She gives credit to Scott for his tutelage.

"He's not only our coach, he's one of my closest friends," Bedera said. "That's really helpful. He finds ways, even when we're stressed, to make sure we're having a good time."

Bedera said the greatest success of the team has been in getting to the championship round the right way. The team has focused on acting like real attorneys instead of resorting to the pandering gimmicks of some other mock trial competitors. She also feels, on a personal level, being a part of the team has helped her grow. She admitted her audition three years ago was terrible.

"It's given me the ability to stand and talk confidently," Bedera said. "It's so hard to stand in front of people who are judging you and scoring you. You get nervous, but you find a way to use that nervousness and overcome it."

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At a glance

Along with Nicole Bedera's outstanding attorney award, freshman Tallis Radwick received a Top Witness Award, the second one she earned this year.

The team consists of four honors students, one scholars student and four students who are involved in Westminster student government.

The other members of the team are Chris Gibbs, Hillary Pierce, Pratik Raghu, Abbie McKinney, Kayela Horrocks-Beyeler and James Steur.