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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Mock Trial secures spot in national competition for the first time since 2008

The team will go to Chicago to compete against top colleges at the end of April.


For the first time since 2008, the Dartmouth Mock Trial team will compete in the national championship, program captain Kavya Nivarthy ’25 said. The national championship will take place at the University of Chicago on the weekend of April 19, according to the American Mock Trial Association website. 

Mock Trial is a competitive form of debate and performance where teams argue a fictional court case — ranging from robberies to plane crashes to pharmaceutical fraud schemes. The team qualified for nationals in the opening round championship series in Cincinnati on the weekend of March 16, according to Nivarthy. 

“A lot of [our advancement to nationals] is definitely owed to the people on the team who came before us,” Nivarthy said. “They laid a ton of foundation in terms of what type of prep work we have to do and set a level of accountability — people on the team are really committed.”

Team member Bea Burack ’25 added that the team was stronger this year because of growing commitment and a focus on giving each other feedback. In the past, the team was not competitive enough for nationals to be part of their “gameplan,” Burack said. 

“Four years ago, this team was not looking to be at nationals,” Burack said. “This year is the first year that, the day before competition, we weren’t cramming to memorize stuff. We were actually working on our delivery and how we sounded … all the little things that make a really competitive team.”

According to membership director Ben Wilkins ’24, the team “absolutely” has a chance of winning nationals after tying with Harvard University’s team in the regional competition this year. Harvard has consistently been one of the top teams in the country, he said. 

“Once you get past a certain threshold, it’s so down to the wire,” he said. “These things are just real nail biters.” 

Nivarthy said the team also has a shot at the national prize because many of its members have acting experience — one member of the team, for example, is a member of Displaced Theatre Company, Dartmouth’s student-run contemporary theatre group. Burack added the team has also started to attend the introductory theatre fair at Dartmouth to recruit more creative competitors. Not all of the team members competed in mock trial in high school and roughly a quarter are actors, Burack said. 

“At the end of the day, mock trial is like a performance, but that means teams run the risk of appearing too performative or fake,” Nivarthy said. “We do a really good job of appearing genuine — that gives us a unique advantage.” 

This year’s national competition involves a medical malpractice case, which Nivarthy said she had “never encountered” before. The team has only a month to familiarize themselves with the topic and prepare for the competition, she said. 

To prepare, the team’s members are practicing up to four times a week, as well as meeting one on one and memorizing scripts, Burack said. The commitment “feels like a fourth class” to Wilkins.

“You spend a lot of late nights, and we really get into the details of the case and spend a lot of time fleshing out the details,” Nivarthy said. “We’re absolutely thrilled to continue to do this activity that we really love at the biggest possible stage.” 

Kavya Nivarthy is a former opinion writer for The Dartmouth.