The date is February 28th, 2016, and I am a failure. A few months prior, I had been asked to co-captain my very first team with my very best friend, Andres Lozano (our now-president). We were both second-semester sophomores who still had so, so much to learn, but we were ready to rise to the challenge. Spring practices began and we met our new team. We employed every possible strategy we could think of to encourage and motivate them to grow with us, all while the two of us faked it till we made it. When our attorneys perfectly recited rules of evidence, we threw them a piece of candy. When our witnesses killed a tough cross, we wrote down their answers to congratulate them afterward. When we needed to come up with a creative character, we decided on… zombie-obsessed-teenager. Ok—so we weren’t perfect, and somehow Andres and I convinced the whole team that this was actually a good idea. We’ve always been pretty good at the faking it part.
After hours and hours of perfecting our directs, preparing our crosses, and praying no one forgot to pack their courtroom shoes, we drove off to Durham, North Carolina for our regional tournament. I was so confident, and Andres and I genuinely thought we had a good shot at a bid to ORCS. We ended the weekend 2-6 and nowhere close to a bid. On February 28th, 2016, I was a failure.
Before I knew it, another season of Mock Trial was upon us. Andres and I formed with Kylie to lead a three-captain team. We meshed perfectly and were blessed with hard workers who wanted to win. We ended up placing 2nd place at MTSU, and we were over the moon. The three of us moved onto our A-team that spring, expecting great things. We were either too naïve or too over-confident, but we really thought we’d make it to nationals. We really were an amazingly talented group, but we just couldn’t make it happen. We ended the weekend 4-4 and nowhere close to a bid. On February 19th, 2017, I was a failure.
This spring, I have been honored to work with our A-team once again. We had setback after setback early on and ended up taking a 6 person team to the Alabama Crimson Classic. We were nervous and prayed that we’d draw an easier team for our first round so we could comfortably get our feet wet. Instead, we drew Alabama (who won not only their own tournament the year prior but won MTSU as well). We went defense, which left the fate of our witnesses in Alabama’s hands. Of the three witnesses I had (barely) prepared for, I ended up performing one of the few I had not. We went into that round shaking in our boots. We ended up going 7-1 and taking home the first place trophy. On January 21st, 2018, I started thinking to myself, “Maybe I’m not a failure today.”
This past Sunday, our team attended the Louisville, Kentucky regional tournament. As we looked over the list of teams in attendance, we picked out three teams we absolutely did not want to face. Vanderbilt was at the top of my list. We left opening ceremonies and headed into our first round against, obviously, Vanderbilt. We faced great team after great team, picking off one at a time by increasing margins. We ended the weekend 8-0 and with the first place trophy in hand. We had a bid. On February 11th, 2018, I was a winner.
As I reminisce about my past four seasons with UTMT, I have come to the realization that I was never a failure. I was young. I was inexperienced. I was in way over my head far too many times. I was underprepared. But I was never a failure. I was growing. I was learning. I was having little, more difficult to measure, wins.
Seeing my team congratulate each other after a well-fought round was a win. Watching a freshman improvise an amazing cross point was a win. Hearing a witness keep her character throughout questioning was a win. We were always building, always growing, and always winning. And we’re not done yet.
So maybe we will go to nationals this year. Maybe we won’t. We’ve already made it farther than I could have hoped. The date is February 19, 2018, and I am a winner.
We’re all winners here.