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‘May it please the court’: seniors on Glenwood Springs High School mock trial team close out season with state competition

Jessica Peterson

Mar 17, 2021

Co-captains of the Glenwood Springs High School mock trial team Kate Malloy and Annika Bucchin said their extra curricular of choice is a lot of work and understanding the nuances of the legal system, but at the same time totally worth it.

“Mock trial is weird. … The amount of different things you have to understand and the different relationships that you have with the judge, jury or your witness is very complex. I like to play pretend lawyer, that’s my description,” Bucchin said.

Malloy and Bucchin are both seniors, Malloy in her fourth year on mock and Bucchin in her third, so the recent state competition was significant to both of them. The fact their teams had advanced that far was reason enough to celebrate, but it also potentially would be their last time competing on mock in their high school career.

Isabel Carlson is one of the coaches for the mock trial teams and teaches the rules of evidence class at GSHS. For her students, this operates as a sort of introduction to mock trial and overviews all the niceties required in the courtroom. It’s also where students tend to get hooked, although to be on the team the class isn’t required. Carlson said while neither team advanced to the finals for the state competition she was proud of their performances. She also added that she wanted to lift up Zach Pearsons, the main coach for mock who took over the program in the middle of a pandemic.

“These kids put in so much hard work and this team in particular puts in a lot of work and is so talented and knows the rules so well. It makes me really happy when people are able to see what comes of all that hard work and watch them perform,” Carlson said.

This year’s case involved a disgruntled ex-mock trial team member breaking and entering into her old coach’s home. Malloy was in charge of delivering the defense opening and did so standing up in front of her computer camera, needing to adjust her body language and presentation so it would engage the judges over Zoom, instead of in an actual courtroom like she’s been accustomed to.

“You will learn that the prosecution’s theory is like a house of cards. If one falls, so do the rest,” Malloy said as she wrapped up the opening.

COVID-19 changed the format mock trial competitions had this year, but still allowed students the opportunity to participate. Malloy said last year, as the teams were getting in the cars to drive to Denver for the state competition they received the call that it was cancelled in order to abide by health safety precautions.

“Having a competition for mock is not only like fun but also the only thing that I have that wasn’t taken away this year. … although it’s virtual I’m very grateful we have the opportunity,” Bucchin said.

Carlson added that an upside to the virtual platform is that family members of competing students who lived out of state were able to tune in and watch, for some of them maybe for the first time. Malloy said that there is a certain dynamic that gets lost over Zoom, for instance not interacting with the teams they compete against in between rounds.

“Because when you talk to them before and you’re like ‘oh wait, these are real people’ it’s less scary when you have to go against them. Something … that is really entertaining is when you go into the courtroom and know the other team and you’re like ‘oh my gosh hi, how have you been?’ and (are) being so nice. Then you get into the round and are like at each other’s throats, and then the round ends and you’re like ‘you guys did so great, love you guys!,'” Malloy said.

Members of Glenwood Springs High School Mock Trial Team 2. Starting bottom center and going clockwise: Angel Hernandez, Andrea Hernandez, Sharaby Rangel, Max Seitel, Paige Flentge, Marcus Winton, Baylee Burton, Hayden Clausen (not pictured MJ Mintz and Brandi Mallander).

Bucchin and Malloy came out swinging for their final mock trial competition, and while it’s a bittersweet moment, Malloy said if incoming freshmen have interests in public speaking or have an outgoing personality that it’s worth giving mock a try.

“If there’s anybody who has a child in 8th grade … encourage them to try out for mock trial and just take the class because it’s so fun, it’s such a good experience and we’re always looking to have more new people in the program,” Malloy said.

The mock team is used to being overshadowed by athletic events at the school, but Bucchin made a point to acknowledge the work of her teammates and coaches. After spending so many hours together over the years preparing for these fictional cases and court settings, she said they’ve been through many ups and downs but at the end of the day are there for one another and have these relationships that will continue even after mock trial ends.

“I think mock trial sometimes gets forgotten in a lot of sense … I would like recognition for my coaches and my teammates because they know me better than anybody else,” Bucchin said.

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