EKU Mock Trial Headed to Nationals

Published on February 21, 2024

Eastern Kentucky University’s (EKU) Mock Trial program is going back to nationals. EKU punched its ticket to the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) Opening Round Championships in Chicago, Illinois, with a 5-3 record at the AMTA Regional Tournament hosted by the University of Dayton, Feb. 3-4, 2024.

EKU narrowly missed out on a nationals bid last year, but qualified for nationals and competed in 2021 and 2022. This year was expected to be a rebuilding year, with only four students returning to the program with any college mock-trial experience. However, the group’s performance steadily improved throughout the year as the new members gained experience under the leadership of co-captains Carley Frost, a senior political science and criminal justice double major from London, Kentucky, and Parker White, a junior criminal justice and forensic psychology double major from Rineyville.

“For me, this is really special, because the team that went to nationals my first year were some of the most phenomenal people that I’d ever met and seen compete,” said White. “I’m really excited to try and fit the role that my captains set before me. It makes me feel like I’m finally at a level where I can do for these freshmen what my captains did for me and set an example.”

Other members of EKU’s qualifying team include:

  • Gavin Cantrell, freshman political science major from Elkhorn City

  • Brianna Garcia-Perez, freshman political science major from Nicholasville

  • Kira Kent, freshman pre-nursing student from Edgewood

  • Brayden Shouse, junior political science major from Jackson 

All six members of the qualifying team are members of the EKU Honors program.

Cantrell and Hope Kerns, a sophomore broadcasting and electronic media major and EKU Honors student from Flemingsburg who was on EKU's second team at the tournament, earned All-Region Witness Awards for their performances.

EKU’s qualifying team also received the Spirit of AMTA Award recognizing the team that most exemplifies the ideals of civility, justice and fair play. EKU’s second team was the runner-up for that award, which was voted upon by the participating teams in the tournament.

EKU took both ballots against the University of Michigan and Duquesne University in rounds one and two on Saturday, Feb. 3, before losing to the eventual first-place team, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, in round three the next morning. With a 4-2 record going into round four, EKU needed at least a split against Northwestern University and got it, finishing with a 5-3 record and securing one of the coveted six bids out of the 24-team regional tournament.

“As a coach, I’m thrilled to see our team’s hard work pay off,” said Thomas Parker, assistant professor in EKU’s Department of Government. “This year has been challenging, as we had only a few students back from last year’s team. In fact, three of the six students on our qualifying team are freshmen, which is highly unusual for a team that advances to nationals. It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and now we get to see how much farther we can take it.”

EKU’s team is scheduled to compete at the AMTA Opening Round Championships (ORC)—the first level of AMTA’s national competition—in Cincinnati, March 16-17. With eight ORCs nationwide, the top six out of 24 teams in each ORC qualify for AMTA’s National Championship Tournament in Chicago, April 19-21. EKU is vying for its first National Championship Tournament appearance since 2017. 

The EKU Mock Trial program develops participating students’ public speaking and critical-thinking skills through participation in trial competitions using case materials developed by the AMTA. 

“Mock trial has been a really good opportunity to learn and grow as a person,” said White, who wants to pursue a career as a lawyer. “It’s a big learning experience, and as long as you’re able to learn something, take something from it or enjoy it—even if you’re not interested in law—it’s just something that you can do for fun.”

EKU’s Mock Trial program is sponsored by the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, with additional support provided by alumni donations. Coaches include EKU Department of Government faculty members Thomas Parker and Lynnette Noblitt and EKU alumna Alexandra Sipes.