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Case closed: GSHS Mock Trial Team nation’s 3rd-best

Dennis Webb

May 13, 2002

All their trials are over.

And Glenwood Springs High School’s Mock Trial team members have acquitted themselves quite well.

Competing in its first national competition against 43 other teams, Glenwood’s team made a strong case for itself, taking third place in this weekend’s competition in St. Paul, Minn.

The magnitude of the achievement was still sinking in as they returned home Sunday.

“It was definitely a pleasant surprise,” said Abby Willman, a sophomore team member. “We went with the hope that we would place in the top 10 but we never really thought we would do this well.”

“… We knew that we had a really great team and we definitely had the ability to do well, but we had never been to nationals and we didn’t know what the competition would be like.”

Charlie Willman, Abby’s father and a local attorney who helped coach the team, said Glenwood lost its first round by a 2-1 judges’ score before winning its remaining three rounds. The last round was against the team from Hawaii.

“That was war. It was a battle,” Abby Willman said.

She said the final results shocked her and her teammates when they were read off. The team from Georgia, which beat Glenwood in that first round, was announced as having taken 10th, so the Glenwood team assumed it was out of the running.

When Glenwood was announced as the third-place team, it took a while for the news to sink in.

“Everybody was like, `wait, wait, I live in Glenwood – that’s me!” she said.

Other members of the team include Joel Banuelos, Zak Brewer, Will Click, Emily Cochran, Ashley Holtum, Alec Littler and Jake Taufer. Chas and Marco Salmen, who were part of the team that won the state championship earlier this year, faced schedule conflicts with track meets and were unable to participate in nationals.

The national competition was centered around a case involving the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes freighter. A homeschooled team from Tennessee won the national championship, and a Pennsylvania team was runner-up.

Asked whether the GSHS team planned to return in 2003 and take the national championship, Charlie Willman said, “Absolutely. We’re going to go and win next year.”

Like a careful attorney, Abby Willman was a little more circumspect.

“We’ll see,” she said. “That’s the coaches’ perspective. It would be great. Nationals is in New Orleans next year so it would be something to work for, but we’ll take it one day at a time.”

Five of the team members are seniors, but Charlie Willman said the others on the team are “good up-and-comers.”

For Holtum, a senior, the third-place finish is an exciting culmination to her high school experience.

“I’ve been doing Mock Trial for four years and it’s a great way to end it,” she said.

She is proud of her teammates and praised their abilities. She said she knew their team was as good as any other at nationals.

“I felt like this year’s team was probably the closest group of kids we ever had. I felt completely confident. I knew my teammates were completely capable and confident.”

Holtum said her teammates sacrificed a lot to prepare for state and national competition.

“I just think that their hard work paid off for everybody. It’s an honor to be associated with these people.”

The hard work continued right through this weekend.

Said Abby Willman, “It may sound horrible, but we were practicing almost the whole time we were there.”

They did get to enjoy a trip to the Mall of America, and celebrated in a rather unusual way when the competition was finally over.

“We went to some other school’s prom, actually. It was pretty interesting,” Willman said.

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