Despite having several new members, this year’s Mock Trial teams were quite strong. One team placed third in the regional competition on March 7 and continued on to compete in the state Mock Trial tournament on March 28. Mock Trial, an extracurricular activity, organized two teams of six students this year.
There were no seniors on either team this year, meaning fewer participants had experience competing in Mock Trial competitions who would be able to share their experience with new members. “It’s definitely hard not having any seniors this year. Their experience was a huge help last year and they are sorely missed,” said sophomore Eric Johnson.
Junior Karam Katariya, who led Team 1, said, “While last year Mock Trial had super experienced seniors to lead the team, this year I was hopeful that we would do really well because both teams worked really hard. We tried to make sure they knew how to do well in Mock Trial.”
The first TGS team included juniors Karam Katariya, Sam Groskind, and Ben Petersen, sophomore Caitlin McCormick, and freshmen Brielle Kalish-LeBarge and Caroline Zlaket.The second team included juniors Dhruv Patel, Ben Showard-Guerrero, sophomore Eric Johnson, and freshmen Yoni Weiner, Lee Costich, and Grace He.
The regional competition took place on March 7 at the Pima County Superior Courthouse in downtown Tucson. Both teams competed in four rounds, during which they faced teams from other Tucson-area schools.
Three TGS students argued as attorneys for the prosecution or defense in each round, presenting opening arguments, questioning witnesses for both sides, and delivering closing arguments in a 70-minute trial. The other three team members served as witnesses in the trial.
Student attorneys and witnesses were scored with a rubric by legal professionals based on the quality of their arguments, their knowledge of courtroom procedures, and presentation style. The team’s score depended on the sum of each member’s individual scores.
Teams did not find out whether they won or lost each round until the end of the competition, when the top four teams move on to compete in the state tournament. This year, TGS Team 2 continued on to compete in a fifth championship round, where they placed third in the regional competition.
Even though Team 1 performed exceptionally well, they failed to make it to the state competition. Katariya explained, “My team was amazing and I could not be more proud of what they did that Saturday. They were perfect and I can’t think of anything else they did badly.”
Katariya added, “While we didn’t deserve to end it this way, I guess we have to live with this. We lost by only 2 points out of 500, and the subjectivity of the judges plays a big part in it.”
Team 2 competed in the state tournament on March 28, in Phoenix at the Sandra Day O’Connor Courthouse, where they won two rounds and lost two rounds.
In previous years, TGS teams were determined by experience. A white team served as a ‘varsity’-level group of upperclassmen, while a blue team served as a ‘junior varsity’-level group of underclassmen. Due to the lack of seniors, this system was abandoned for two equally experienced teams.
Johnson noted, “This year’s teams are different from the past because we tried to distribute experienced members equally among them.”
Before the competition in March, members of the teams worked together to improve their argumentation and presentation skills while preparing a legal case. Sophomore Caroline Zlaket said, “These final two weeks of practice were about fine-tuning and perfecting our skills so we would be ready for the regional competition.”
Of course, members of the Mock Trial team not only developed new skills, but also a sense of friendship and camaraderie.
Zlaket said, “Being a newbie, I was a little nervous to try it out. But Karam and the other members on my team have been extremely welcoming and generous and I think that we’re more prepared than ever.”
Both teams had a mixture of experienced members and new ones. Katariya said, “I’m really proud of how far my team has come.”
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