September 27th, 2019
Mock Trial triumphs once again
SUN. | 02-21-21 | NEWS
SAT. | 10-10-20 | NEWS
Regional competitions for Mock Trial were held over Zoom on Friday, Feb. 6 and Saturday, Feb. 7. Both the Green and Blue Rose teams made it to the final rounds in their respective regionals. The Green team, made up entirely of seniors, won and will be moving on to the state competition, scheduled to be held on Friday, Mar. 5 and Saturday, Mar. 6.
Each year Mock Trial teams are given a case to prepare at the beginning of the school year. The case is written specifically for the competition and varies according to state. Students are then assigned either witness or attorney roles and spend months preparing to try the case against other teams. Normally, competitions are held in court rooms and students travel to their region to compete, but
Photos contributed by Liza Knight
this year, coordinators decided to hold all-virtual trials.
“You’ve got to practice in the format that you’re going to be doing the competition in,” Mock Trial coach
Liza Knight said. “So I think more practices on Zoom and then trying to do that outside scrimmage, which is not something that we normally do, were the main differences in our preparation.”
While the trials themselves were all-virtual, students were given some leeway as to where they attended the competition from according to the regulations at their school. Since Pitt County Schools allows for hybrid learning, members of Rose Mock Trial teams were given the option of attending either from their homes or from the school building so long as school was not in session.
“The online format of this year’s competition was something that took a lot of getting used to, but at a certain point in the competition when my teammates and I were just laughing and having fun, I realized that it was still Mock Trial,” Blue Team Co-Captain and junior Veronica Summers said. “I still felt very close to my team members and we were all passionate and engaged in the work.”
The regional competition, which is usually a one day event, was broken up into two days. On the first day, only one round was held and on the second day, both the second round and the finalist round were held.
“It’s really sort of interesting,” Knight said. “Both the Wilmington final and the Fayetteville final were School of Science and Math versus Rose and I don’t know a time when that’s ever happened, where it’s been the same two schools in two different finals.”
After each round, students are chosen to receive best witness and best attorney awards and this year, several Rose team members were recognized.
On the Blue Team, made up of ninth through eleventh graders, junior Travon Smith and Summers received best attorney awards. Then, Summers and Blue Team Co-Captain and sophomore Kinsley Tate White received best witness awards.
On the Green Team, senior Katie Brimhall was awarded best witness and senior Ginger Evans was awarded best attorney. Evans and senior Gabriela Hernandez-Garo are the co-captains of the Green Team.
“It was an honor to be recognized as the best attorney for the first round, and I’m glad I was still able to convey my arguments and skills efficiently through the online format in a way that the jurors and judges liked,” Evans said.
When the Green Team attends the state competition, the format will remain all-virtual with three rounds. Originally, however, plans were being made to add a fourth round.
“Normally there’s 10 or 12 teams that make it to states and when you have that many teams, you could end up with three or four undefeated teams,” Knight said. “It’s not always fair how it’s determined which two of those teams make the finals, but … if you do three rounds, ... you should end up with just two undefeated teams, so it’s something that several coaches, including myself, advocated for.”
This new schedule was first going to be implemented at last year’s state competition, but after the 2020 competition was canceled due to COVID-19, the change was delayed. This year, it seemed that the schedule would be implemented, but it was changed back to the normal three rounds.
In the future, Knight also hopes that changes can be made to help encourage less experienced teams to develop their schools’ programs.
“There are some states that have different competitive divisions and do a division for newer teams,” Knight said. “Part of me feels that if they wanted to grow the program in North Carolina, they could do that because there’s a lot of teams that start and they go to regionals for a year or two and get beaten up against teams that have a lot of experience and then they stop.”
Knight has been coaching Mock Trial for 19 years and has had five teams go to nationals, but even with her experience, this year has presented unique challenges.
“I feel like I had to be a little bit more hands-off this year and trust that people were handling stuff and that they’d come to me if there were questions,” Knight said. “I imagine from the student perspective that you guys probably felt like there was more that you had to get ready on your own without as much help and supervision from coaches.”
Despite the challenges, the Rose team has been able to find success this year and team members have continued to develop their skills.
“Getting to know the students and then seeing the growth in them is my favorite part about it,” Knight said.
Students interested in getting involved in the program should reach out to Knight at knightL@pitt.k12.nc.us so that she can contact them with more details next fall.