By David Halbrook.
Patrick Henry College
Andrew Ferguson and J.C. Cartee, 2012 ACMA national moot court champions
With six championships in the past eight years, PHC remains the only ACMA moot court participant to have won more than one title.
“Praise God and congratulations to our students,” said PHC founder and chancellor, Dr. Michael Farris, coach of the moot court team. “Going in, I believed any one of our eight teams could’ve won the tournament. The bulk of activity in competition is answering the judges’ questions and J.C. and Andrew both have that ability to understand and give concise, convincing answers delivered very smoothly. That was their key."
“It’s a huge achievement,” offered moot court coach Dr. Frank Guliuzza, “and I don’t ever want it to be presumptuous, or get to the point where we think it’s mundane. How many schools can say they’re the best, or have been the best, at anything? I’m still in awe of what the Lord is enabling our students to do.”
Having qualified the maximum number of eight teams for nationals, PHC advanced seven teams to the round of 32 (octofinals), six teams to the Sweet 16, four teams to the “Elite Eight” round, and three to the Final Four. In addition to Cartee and Ferguson’s first-place trophy, two PHC teams tied for third place: Micah Walters and Kayla Griesemer and Logan Spena and Samuel Johnson. Ardee Coolidge and Josh Chamberlain, made it to the Elite Eight, and PHC duos Blake Meadows and Bridget Degnan and Ben Williamson and James Compton advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
“It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet that we won,” said Ferguson, a junior, “but it has been truly amazing. I have dreamed of winning nationals from before I attended PHC. For the Lord to bless us with victory has been both thrilling and humbling. All the members of the moot court team and their family members that were there were incredibly supportive. To have our names next to some of the PHC moot court greats is truly humbling.”
Kayla Griesemer and Micah Walters, third-place ACMA national finishers
Not unexpectedly, the College also filled the upper tier of the tournament’s Top Orator rankings, earning second through seventh Top Speaker Awards, which included, respectively, (2nd) freshman Ben Williamson, (3rd) sophomore Blake Meadows, (4th) freshman James Compton, (5th) freshman Samuel Johnson, (6th) senior Nicole Frazer and (7th) senior Logan Spena. Junior James Nelson came in 11th. In the Brief Writing Competition, PHC teams of Kyle Niewoehner/Nicole Frazer and Samuel Johnson/ Kira Clark won third and fourth places, respectively. The team of Mackenzi Siebert and Tait Deems placed fourth in the Top Respondent Brief Competition.
While some may have expected a rebuilding year for moot court at PHC -- as last year’s championship duo of Alex and Brett Harris chose to sit out this season -- the results proved anything but as PHC teams dominated all three regional tournaments heading toward nationals.
“Fortunately, our students weren’t complacent but were still hungry to win,” observed Dr. Guliuzza. “The quality of the entire team supports our success leading up to nationals. Those who wonder how we win should see how hard these students work throughout the fall. You can’t win in January if you haven’t put in the time in September, October and November. As coaches, you have Mike (Farris) working with students as a constitutional practitioner, which is kind of like an expert chess player who sees moves three steps ahead. That’s pretty good coaching. And I put in 20 to 40 hours a week as well working with students, who want the coaching. It’s not like we have to drag them in. I put up a sign-up sheet and it’s full. Everyone pays the price through the fall semester.”
Samuel Johnson and Logan Spena, third-place ACMA national finishers
“During the earlier rounds,” he recalled, “Kelsey Stapler Morris, a former PHC student, served as a judge. She was a top moot court competitor at PHC who received a full-ride scholarship from Pepperdine University School of Law. She now works for Akin Gump, one of the largest law firms in the nation. Kelsey is already on her way toward a very successful law career and was just a terrific judge. Just seeing her at that level of competence was, for me, the end product of what we’re looking for. It’s the reason our kids are so inspired to get involved and work so hard, because they’ve seen the fruit it has born in the lives of our graduates.”