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Mock Trial Nationals

After almost a decade, the Community Mock Trial team returned to the National Competition in Delaware.
Chloe Root

With two lucky coins in his pocket, hundreds of hours poured into practice and 500 miles from home, Sam Austin finally paced the courtroom. He was switching into lawyer mode, making sure everything he did was intentional and that every movement he made was with purpose.

“Switching into lawyer mode gives you permission to become somebody that you don’t normally get to be,” Austin said. “It gives you permission to become someone who’s really intelligent and kind of mean to other people, who uses their intelligence in a mean way.”

For Austin, he had no room to waste. Austin, along with his eight other team members, was competing at the High School Mock Trial Nationals, one of the highest levels for high school Mock Trial and a competition that took half a year to reach, with practice beginning in October and the Community High School team making it through regionals and states.

In February, the Community A Team finished in the top three of the Mock Trial Regionals which made them able to compete at States in Lansing a month later. After four more rounds at States, the A-Team came out in first place in the state of Michigan and came perhaps the hardest part for Austin: having faith.
To compete at Nationals, which took place in Wilmington, Delaware. on May 2-5, the team had to prepare and memorize all the typical stuff — openings and closings, which are five-minute statements given at the beginning and end of trials; direct examinations, where attorneys question team witnesses in a scripted time; and cross-examinations, when attorneys question opposing team’s witnesses off script.

“After states, I think the most difficult part is having faith that the material is going to get you there [to nationals], and having faith that the work is going to pay off,” Austin said. “That you’re actually going to get results because there’s a lot of time when you feel everything is just falling apart or when you feel things aren’t mastered yet, so you just have to believe that at some point things are going to come together.”

Austin thinks he doesn’t truly know if things are going to come together until he starts talking in the first trial, since that’s when he starts to feel the pressure. And because of that, he improved a lot in those final days. After the first two rounds and seeing what worked and what didn’t, both from the Community team and other teams, Austin and Serena O’Brien, another lawyer from Community, took the time to rewrite portions of his cross, seeing things differently with things brought up earlier that day.

Community’s team went through four tough rounds, with lawyer arguments, great witness performances and unpredictability in all aspects throughout the trials. Being Nationals, only the top teams from around the US (and several territories) compete, meaning Community faced the best of the best.

While Austin has his “laywer mode,” O’Brien focuses on keeping herself calm and her nerves down. With so many moving parts, she tries to keep extra stress away. Although they faced tough opponents, Austin and O’Brien are glad for their witnesses, who many times they feel are able to stand strong against opposing attorneys.

“We’re really lucky,” O’Brien said. “We have some squirrely witnesses on our team who are good to practice with. They just love to talk.”

But even though the team spent 10 hours in trials, they spent time outside during the five-day trip, two of which were dedicated to traveling. On the first day, competitors practiced with scrimmages and later went to the pin exchange, where competitors got to know other teams a little and were given tokens from respective states.

“Those moments as a team when we got to spend time or seeing everybody come in the second van and then running into the pin exchange and having fun [are great],” teacher coach Chloe Root said. “All those things are just so enjoyable that you just don’t get to do them with your team very often, especially after working so hard. And seeing everybody grind super hard was really lovely. So those are the memories that I think are going to stick out to me even.”

On the last day, a gala was held to honor all the teams and coaches, as well as an awards ceremony. Community’s team didn’t win awards, however, although Austin does feel disappointed, he also feels ok with it.

“You have to be able to tell yourself that when you’re going up against such a high level of skill, especially in an activity that is as subjective and random as mock trial, if you felt good about what you did, and you feel like you improved from the last time you competed, and you acted and thought and were more clear and sharp and confident and competent than you were the last time you competed, I think you have to be okay with that,” Austin said.

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About the Contributor
Aidan Hsia
Aidan Hsia, News Editor
Aidan is the news editor for the Communicator and a senior at CHS. He’s played classical guitar for most of his life but loves all kinds of music. Aidan likes reading, playing games, or watching late-night movies with his dog. He’s excited to start his senior year and to write stories for the Communicator.

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