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Sajjad Ali, the middling attorney for the defense, shows opposing attorney Hannah Walters evidence during the University of Georgia Mock Trial A Team scrimmage in the journalism building on Monday, Feb. 4 in Athens, Georgia. On Feb. 10 and 11, the mock trial teams competed in the American Mock Trial Association’s Columbia Regional Tournament in Columbia, South Carolina. The A Team placed fourth out of 21 teams, and the B Team placed first. (Photo/ Erin Schilling, eschilling@randb.com)

After placing second and fifth at a qualifying competition in Memphis last weekend, two teams from the University of Georgia’s undergraduate mock trial program will be advancing to the national championship for the first time in three years.

This comes after all four teams of UGA’s program were invited to compete at the qualifying competition in Memphis, Tennessee on March 15-17. With space to advance only two teams, the program sent the two comprised of more-experienced competitors to represent the school.

Team A placed fifth overall and Team B placed second. Only the top five teams are eligible to advance to the national championship.

UGA will compete alongside 39 other universities, including Yale, Georgetown, Georgia Tech and Emory, in Philadelphia on April 4-7.

“After we found out, I was crying and the other people I was with were crying just because we were so excited,” senior competitor Dorothy Rau said. “It was like this apex of intense emotion because we’d been doing nothing other than working towards this finish line, and to actually get there was incredible.”

Sophomore Caylin Gross, junior Nathan Pugh and Rau individually received Outstanding Witness awards at the qualifying competition. With the highest number of individual awards out of all witnesses participating in high-level invitationals and having received an award at the qualifier, Rau is now considered to be the highest-ranking witness in the country.

With only two weeks until the championship, the practice schedule for the teams has increased significantly, Rau said. They practice six times a week to prepare and familiarize themselves with the new case materials they are given for the competition.

Intercollegiate mock trial is a competitive program in which students play the rules of attorneys or witnesses in fictional criminal and civil lawsuits. The objective is to simulate real-life court proceedings and present the most compelling case theory for the defense or prosecution side.

Each competing team is given the same case materials to prepare and argue with throughout the entire competition season, but teams advancing to the national competition are provided with a new case packet to study in only two weeks’ time.

“Everyone is so on-board with practicing so much because we care so much,” Rau said. “Just to make the people in our program proud, we owe it to them to work as hard as we possibly can and to do as best as we can with these new materials.”

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