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Mock trial is no joke for students

To hear students tell the story, not a shred of doubt loomed over Glenwood Springs High School’s showing at the National Mock Trial Championship last month. “We expected to be in the final round,” said mock trial team member Angela Vichick recently. Another bragged – incorrectly, according to a coach – that Glenwood Springs was one of only two or three public schools at the national tournament. The confidence could have been misinterpreted as cockiness, had it not been for the school’s record the past four years. In May, Glenwood placed eighth in the nation for the second year in a row. In the previous two years the team placed third and second. Though the team has never placed first at nationals, it does have the best national record, averaging a fifth-place finish over the past four years. In honor of the seven first-teamers – Dylan Walters, Scott Straus, Sarah Lewis, Zac Parsons, Angela Vichick, Abri Yawa, Zach Hallford and alternate Anna Hakanson – the Colorado Bar Association held a reception at the Hotel Colorado last night. “(They) are the envy of the state,” said Carolyn Ferber, director of public legal education for the bar association. “(Other teams) don’t like losing to them, but they respect them,” she said. Mock trial can be mysterious to most who aren’t directly involved. Mock trial competitors don’t garner the praise or attention that football or basketball champions do – or for that matter, even the drama club. No, mock trial – at least in ultrasupportive Glenwood Springs – happens behind closed doors, at the Garfield County Courthouse on evenings after school and on weekends. Those who do know what happens at mock trial might think it involves little more than reading from a script practiced ad nauseam for months before the competition. The truth, however, is that one team never knows what kind of evidence another will present during a meet, and all the team members have to think on their feet, said team member Graham Jackson. The team spends hours preparing from September to May, because the members are competitive by nature. And once someone starts in mock trial, they often can’t stop. “It’s like a cult – once you’re in you can’t get out,” Vichick joked.All agree that the mock trial students are the reason for their own success – they are smart and dedicated. This year’s first team was young, with just one returning member from last year’s national team. After the team won state, it spent an hour and a half seven days a week for five weeks preparing a completely new case for the national tournament, said head coach and judge Victor Zerbi. Many say Zerbi is the person who has kept the program going during its 12-year history.That kind of commitment is impressive from the competitors, but it is extraordinary from the team’s volunteer coaches.”When the kids want to put in the extra work, it only works if the adults help them,” Zerbi said. For 27 kids on GSHS’s three teams, there are 20 coaches. Those numbers highlight the community dedication GSHS’s team needs to the succeed.”I love to see what these kids are capable of … by the time they are in the courtroom they are as good as any attorney,” said Garfield County judge Paul Metzger.Perhaps even more impressive is the nearly $25,000 the team got to support its tournaments in Grand Junction, Boulder, and Charlotte, N.C. More than 120 individuals, businesses and the school district donated the money, said Connie Lewis, the parent of a mock trial member. But for all the work, mock trial must be a good time. After a recent awards ceremony, the team members joked and giggled about what they would only say was “lots of fun at nationals,” before giggling some more. The competitiveness wasn’t far from the surface, however.”It’s not guaranteed that we’ll make it out of the state,” Jackson said. But at nationals, “next year we’re going to win.”


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