Oakmont wins mock trial; advances to state

By: Eileen Willson, Special to The Press-Tribune
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Usually the mood in a courtroom is serious and orderly. But last month, Oakmont High School's 19-member Mock Trial team brought talent, enthusiasm and exceptionally persuasive arguments to a county competition in Sacramento, which allowed them to clinch the No. 1 spot, permitting them to move on to the state competition in Riverside March 28-30. This is the second time we've gone to state “ the environment is incredibly competitive, said Michelle John, freshman English teacher and team coach. This is an academic competition that's national. Each county sends one team to state. The national competition will be held in Delaware in early May. The trial might not be real, but the preparation most assuredly is. Every team in the nation receives the same casebook to study. The competition itself consists of four rounds, and takes place in an actual courtroom, presided over by judges and attorneys. Students must prepare a prosecution, a defense, and also act out roles of witnesses, clerks, bailiffs and members of the jury. In order to build excitement and energy, Sacramento County allows both Placer County and Yolo County schools to participate in their county competition, bringing 25 teams together under one roof. The whole environment “ you're downtown, in the big courtroom. The atmosphere is great, said Robert Moreno, sophomore English teacher and team coach. This year the kids we're working with are highly motivated. We met several times over Christmas break to work on the case. They've shown huge commitment. While Moreno is enjoying his first year as coach, John is a mock-trial veteran, having coached Oakmont's team for six years, and Natomas High's team for six years before that. The school is incredibly supportive of the team “ both staff and administration, John said. They really make the team feel important and special. The team receives additional help from coaches Diane Contos, who is a sophomore English teacher, and attorney Lisa Botwinik. According to John, the team consists of many types of students. Honors students are interested in joining the team, but kids from any academic level are welcome. Some kids are drawn to the team because they're interested in pursuing a career in law, but others are intrigued by the dramatic element, the competitiveness and the team atmosphere. I joined because I want to be a lawyer, and I like to perform, said Shelby Hagensmith, fourth-year Mock Trial member, who is a prosecutor for the team. She is also team president, which requires her to help her coaches with organization, communication and assist other team members as needed. Garrison Weekes, who is a bailiff, is interested in law as well. I really enjoy it. It's something fun to do, and it looks good on my college application, so my parents like it, he said. Jordan Heckley, a witness for the prosecution, joined the group as he said he was interested in the challenge, and hoped to learn more about the law. It's amazing “ it's really great to go out and compete against other schools. We're like one big family. For more information about the National Mock Trial Competition, visit