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Home > Trophy Case Full Again for PHC Legal Debaters

Trophy Case Full Again for Legal Debaters

November 25th, 2008

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727


Part of the moot court team at Fitchburg State College

Patrick Henry College’s moot court trophy case is once again bursting at the seams as the school’s brigade of legal debaters surges toward another strong showing at the 2008-2009 moot court nationals. Though no school can send more than eight teams to Chapman University School of Law in Orange County, CA., site of January’s culminating tournament, the College has already qualified ten two-student teams with one regional tournament yet to come in Long Beach, CA.

And at each of the three regional tournaments completed so far, PHC debaters have won “top speaker” awards—at Drake University in Iowa, Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts, and at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia.  Top speaker awards went to Logan Spena in Des Moines, Steve Williams in Georgia, and Rachel Heflin in Massachusetts. Second place speaker honors went to James Mieding and Aidan Grano.

Since more PHC teams are likely to qualify in Long Beach, moot court coaches Dr. Michael Farris and Dr. Frank Guliuzza will finalize the roster for nationals, Jan. 16-17, once those results are tallied.

“We worked very hard,” said Dr. Guliuzza, a Professor of Government who arrived at PHC this year from Weber State University in Utah, traditionally one of PHC’s toughest competitors. He explained that after the teams “broke” to the final out-rounds at Drake, having already drilled for nearly six hours, they practiced for another three hours.

James Mieding, a junior who, with his partner Robert Kelly, guaranteed a spot at nationals by winning the ACMA Upper Midwest Regional Moot Court Tournament at Drake University School of Law, said “We were just excited we did well and gave it our best effort, and the fact that we get to go to Nationals is just icing on the cake.” In that tournament, PHC teams won first, second, and fourth place, while all six participating PHC students scored within the top ten speaker points.

For Dr. Farris, fielding another superlative moot court team is deeply satisfying. But as the College enters its ninth year, he is beginning to see, in a subtly different light, the more far-reaching aspects of the program’s success.

“There was a very special moment at the tournament at Fitchburg State College,” he recalled. “We were waiting in the judge’s briefing room after a round, and two of our former champions, Lindsay See and Matthew du Mee, who are now both attending Harvard Law School, were in attendance as judges. Other former PHC legal debaters, now also attending various law schools, were also there.

“We’re getting to the age as a college when we can really begin to see the fruit of those who have come before,” he added. “The evidence is building that our successes at these tournaments have credentialed our students to both gain admittance to and perform well at top law schools. That is very gratifying to see.”

The College’s top-ranked teams heading into nationals, according to Dr. Farris, are duos Rachel Heflin and Aidan Grano, and Joseph Alm and Brianna Edelblut. Heflin, by winning the top speaker award in Massachusetts, became the first repeat winner in the tournament’s history, while her partner, Aidan Grano, placed second. Interestingly, Grano and Heflin supplanted last year’s first and second-place speakers, Joseph Alm and Briana Edeblut.

Dr. Farris also noted that Rachel Heflin and Brianna Edelblut were both, prior to arriving at PHC, national high school debate champions.

“We’re attracting quality debaters into our program,” he said with a smile.

Students who have so far qualified for nationals, in no particular order, are James Mieding, Robert Kelly, Logan Spena, Joshua Chamberlain, Rachel Heflin, Aidan Grano, Joseph Alm, Brianna Edelblut, Aaron Kamakawiwoole, Joshua Kamakawiwoole, Evan Mantel, John Miller, Shannon Healy, Adam Fisher, Stephanie Monk, Jessica Wagner, Justin Jenkins, Kyndra Jamison, Kirk Sosebee, and Stephen Elzinga.