In its 35th year in 2019, thousands of students across the US competed for the National High School Mock Trial Championship. This makes reaching the national tournament no easy task, and it continues to get more competitive each year. Despite the intense competition, over the years some schools have managed to make it to the top 10 placements multiple times. We examined the past 20 years of the National Mock Trial Championship award winners and found some interesting trends in the awards that highlighted a few dynasties of the past 2 decades. Over the years, the Mock Trial Championships have seen many amazing performances, but among all of these, there have been a handful that stand out over the years.
Since the 2000 championship, there have been a total of 105 schools that have made it into the top 10. Each of these schools is to be commended for their excellent performance; even more impressive are the schools that have been able to do this more than once. Just 44 schools have been on the Mock Trial top-10 podium twice or more since 2000.
What we really want to know are which schools have had “dynastic” runs on the podium? To do this, we must first define what we mean by “dynasty.” For our purpose here, to be considered a dynasty a school must have appeared in the top-10 for at least three years in a row, and they must have had at least one of those years in the top 3 places. With this definition in mind we identified 10 Mock Trial Dynasties over the past two decades and a handful of other honorable mentions. The chart below demonstrates their 4-year staying power averages as a mark of how powerful the dynasty was.
This chart paints a good picture of how dynasties have shaped up in mock trial over the years. Here's our list of honorable mentions, and the top dynasties ranked by their overall powerful performances!
- Duchesne Academy (2015-2016 with 1750 ICS Award Points) – Hitting first place one year, and immediately following that up with another top-3 performance is no easy feat by any means, but that’s exactly what Duchesne Academy achieved making 1st place in 2015 and 2nd place in 2016. Unfortunately, they fell off the top 10 radar after that, so we can’t officially note this school as a dynasty, but it has definitely demonstrated the power to reach the top.
- Family Christian Academy Homeschool (2002-2003 with 2000 ICS Award Points) – In the early 2000s this homeschool team was the first to ever take the top award twice. And they did it in back-to-back years – something that only two other teams have achieved since. This team fell off the Mock Trial radar after their 2002-2003 back-to-back performance (presumably because the students graduated), so they aren’t officially a “dynasty” with 3+ year staying power, but they certainly deserve notice as an honorable mention.
- Albuquerque Academy (2012-2013 with 2000 ICS Award Points) – Back-to-back top performances have only occurred three times. Albuquerque Academy was one to do it. Unfortunately, they didn’t pair up those performances with other placements in the top 10, so we aren’t able to recognize them as an official dynasty. However, they have shown up in the top 10 twice more since their 2012-13 double wins! Just this past year they came in a healthy 6th place at the national tournament. Could they have another run on the top coming together for a new dynasty?
Top Ranked Dynasties:
- #10. John Adams High School (2001-2003 with 700 ICS Award Points) – from 2001 to 2003, John Adams High School had a lower level dynasty. They reached as high as 4th place on the podium, but this is a tricky one to discuss, as we’ll see later in the rankings when we get to the top ranked dynasty.
- #9. Central Carolina Home schoolers (2015-2018 with 1300 ICS Award Points) – the only home school group to reach official “dynasty” status, the Central Carolina Home Schoolers had a powerful team not long ago. From 2013 to 2018, they only missed reaching the top 10 once.
- #8. Glenwood Springs HS (2002-2005 with 1450 ICS Award Points) – between 2002 and 2005, Glenwood Springs was a regular name at the national tournament. Reaching as high as 2nd place in 2003 and having four years in a row on the top 10 gave then enough ICS award points to put them at number 8 on our all-time dynasty list.
- #5 (tie). Breck HS (2010-2012 with 1600 ICS Award points) – in 2010, Breck High School took the national Mock Trial tournament by storm. Having never reached the podium before, they hit 1st place that year and followed it up with two more top 10 placements. This impressive three year run was enough to put them into a tie for 5th place on our all-time dynasty list.
- #5 (tie). Franklin HS (2000-2002 with 1600 ICS Award Points) – Franklin High School has an interesting story in the history of national mock trial. They are actually in 3rd place in the all-time ICS award point rankings with a total of 3100 points scored over the past 20 years (behind only John Adams, and Kalamazoo with 3600 each). However, their top-10 placements earning them ICS award points came at exact opposite ends of the 20 year period. Franklin High School hit dynasty status between 2000 and 2002, taking 1st place in 2000 and following it up with two more top 10 appearances. More recently, in 2018 and 2019, they’re making another run on “dynasty” status with a 1st and 2nd place finish!
- #5 (tie). Henry W. Grady HS (2009-2012 with 1600 ICS Award Points) – Completing the trifecta for our 5th place dynasty tie, is Henry W. Grady High School. Although all three schools came out with the same number of ICS award points for their dynastic run, this school did something the others have not – they had a 4-year run on the top 10 podium. But with that run, they did not make the 1st place award which keeps them tied rather than moving up in the rankings.
- #4. Seattle Preparatory HS (2008-2014 with 2000 ICS Award Points) – Seattle Prep had a truly impressive run on the national mock trial competition from 2008 to 2014. They are one of just two teams to have a 7 year run on the top 10 podium! Cementing their dynasty status was a 1st place finish in 2014. Although the earlier finishes didn’t reach the top levels of the podium, the sheer length of their top 10 performance makes them one of the most impressive dynasties of Mock Trial history!
- #3. Jonesboro HS (2006-2008 with 2100 ICS Award points) – this high school’s dynasty burned hot and fast. Jonesboro High School is the only team to win 1st place twice in a row, that also reached a 3+ year dynasty status! However, after their dual wins in 2007 and 2008, it wasn’t for 10 years that they were back on the top 10 podium, hitting 4th place in 2018. Still, their performance between 2006-2008 set their spot at #3 in our all-time Mock Trial Dynasties!
- #2. Kalamazoo Central HS (2006-2008 with 2250 ICS Award Points) – this school can claim something truly unique - the title of the most powerful dynasty! And they did it without once coming in first! Between 2006 and 2008, Kalamazoo Central High School came in 2nd place on the mock trial podium each year! This powerful trifecta of performances 3 years in a row put them just above Jonesboro and our #1 team as far as pure ICS Award points for their dynasty. In 2017 and 2018, Kalamazoo High School was back on the top 10 podium marking a resurgence in potential dynastic power, and infact already only missed having a 2nd dynasty by a single place (earning 11th in 2016).
- #1. John Adams High School (2005-2011 with 2900 ICS Award Points) – as our #1 Mock Trial Dynasty, there is much to say about John Adams High School. They are one of just five schools to have hit 1st place more than once. They are also tied for the longest run on the top 10 podium, hitting it seven years in a row between 2005 and 2011. What is even more unique about John Adams High School is that their run nearly extended all the way from 2001 up to 2013! They only missed this in 2004 when they reached 18th place. However, the fact that for more than a decade, from 2001 to 2011, John Adams High School missed the top 10 podium only once, is a feat that has not been matched, and they are the only school that can claim they’ve hit dynasty status twice! Because of these reasons, John Adams makes our #1 Dynasty of all-time in national Mock Trial!
One final interesting piece about Mock Trial Dynasties is that as of the 2019 National Championship, there are two schools poised to launch new dynasties with the 2020 competition. Both Franklin High School (1st place team in 2018) and Agathos Classical School (1st place team in 2019) could reach official dynasty status with a top 10 placement in 2020. These schools traded places from 2018 and 2019 competitions taking first and second place each year. A 1st or 2nd place finish for either team in 2020 would catapult them all the way to a tie with Kalamazoo Central HS for the #2 ranked dynasty!
Of course there are hundreds of other teams vying for those top spots. We'll have to wait until next year's tournament to see if they can do it. Or if other schools will start a run towards their own dynasties!
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We’ve all been there. It’s late in the evening after a long day of work, but you can’t relax yet because your significant other just doesn’t get it. You lay out the facts of your case, going through the logical step-by-step reasoning, but you still end up arguing for hours. You try different angles. You get angry. You calm down. You get angry again only to finally throw your arms up and leave the argument in a huff of frustration! Why won’t she (or he) understand the perfectly sound logic of your reasoning! Of course going to the football game is more important than going shopping next weekend!
Arguments and disagreements are everywhere in our lives. A 2011 survey conducted by home insurance company Esure noted that couples end up arguing (or “bickering” in their terms) on average 7 times a day. We will experience arguments regularly throughout our lives in both personal and professional settings. However, not all arguments are alike. Some may have grand consequences, while others may barely have an impact on our future. Knowing which is which can be an art in and of itself.
Unfortunately, traditional schooling does not do much to teach our students how to approach arguments. There is a whole field of social psychology on arguing and debate. Luckily for us, starting as early as middle school, our students can join debate clubs and tournaments to pick up this valuable skillset. As with many academic competitions, students will often have to join the club as an extra-curricular program – even though the skills learned on a Debate Team may have more direct real-life impact than many others in their formal curriculum.
Debate competitions do more than teach your students about public speaking and how to make an argument; they help with the development of critical thinking and research skills, and allow students to both form their own opinions and learn how to critique and analyze those of others. Getting into debate competitions can be daunting, especially for students (and teachers) who don’t have a lot of experience participating in them. So we took a little time to research some of the common tips for preparing your students for their next debate. If you’re considering getting involved in debate competitions, or just want to understand ways to prep for your next spat with your sig-fig on what to do this weekend, check out these tips to help students win in debate!
Strengthen Their Research Skills
Half the battle is behind the scenes before even stepping up on stage. The best orator can fall short if their research is lacking and they don’t know their facts. A well prepared argument can make all the difference. Confidence can only take you so far, because a large part of debate is about the power of your content. Chris Wakefield, a former debator, says in Debating Matters that “if you are already prepared for some responses, then you won’t be wrong-footed as easily.”
The average high school student has yet to perform in-depth research, and might not be very skilled at even knowing what research to do in order to prepare for a debate. Try some scenario writing where the students dive into each different argument their opponent might make, and research the facts behind those arguments Taking the time to build up this academic skillset can be all the difference not only in the debate competitions, but in future real-life arguments as well. Focus on training students about what background is most necessary to be able to counter each opposing argument. Knowing what questions and arguments your opponent might make ahead of time will take away some of the surprise during the debate itself.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Almost all of us will be caught off guard at some point in our lives. This happens more often than not in debates as well. Students cannot always research every possibility that your opponents will throw at you. At some point they will be hit with a fact they had never heard of, or a counter argument that they never considered. Luckily, there are ways we can prepare for these situations as well.
A great way to address this is to present your students with a scenario, withholding a fact, and then introducing the fact just moments before they have a practice debate. This forces the students to improvise their responses – to think on their feet. This approach is similar to one used by the Upright Citizens Brigade, a training center for improv acting. They emphasize the need to “move the scene forward” without hesitation—to ignore any hiccups and push through them. Students will need to be able to react and respond to new, unforeseen information in a timely and well organized fashion. Taking a few lessons from improv classes wouldn’t hurt either!
Put Them in the Ring
It can be easy to spend countless time teaching your students about debate. However, there comes a point where words fall short. Commit to setting up practice sessions with your students sooner rather than later. Be sure to take the time to critique their performance and offer tips for improvement and you’ll see a massive change in their performance. Don’t believe us? Research from the University of Tennessee shows that experiential learning results in increased confidence, self-efficacy, content knowledge, and critical thinking skills. So don’t spend too much time simply researching the case. Put your students up in mock-arguments, make them test each other out!
Build a Strong Sense of Camaraderie
At the end of the day, debate is a team competition. Students will remember their practice sessions just as much as the competitions, and colleges will be more impressed by their drive and teamwork than any medals they earn. More and more we hear from college admissions officers that it is about demonstrating the effort, not the specific awards that catches the eye in making a decision whether or not to admit a student. As a Debate Team coach, make sure to spend time building relationships, doing icebreakers, and ensuring that your students are bonded to each other. As you progress through the season, pair up students randomly so they don’t work with just their friends. This will help the entire team become a seamless unit and lead to greater success.
There are many debate competitions available to students from middle school through college. There is even a National Speech and Debate Tournament in the US. But don't forget about the many local, regional, or state competitions and other topical debate competitions that may be available to you as well! Make sure to check out all the Debate Competitions on the ICS Competitions database to find the ones best suited for you and your students!