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Glenwood’s mock trial team headed to nationals

John Stroud

Mar 15, 2011

Glenwood Springs High School senior Christian “Chuck” Bergren-Aragon joked that he and his seven fellow mock trial teammates might be living with their coach for the next several weeks.

Or, maybe they’ll set up some cots at the Garfield County Courthouse, head coach and longtime Glenwood Springs attorney Charlie Willman suggested instead.

Whatever the arrangement, the group of five GSHS seniors and three sophomores will be spending a good chunk of their time between now and early May preparing for the National High School Mock Trial Tournament, to be held May 6-7 in Phoenix.

The Glenwood Springs Team A won the Colorado State Mock Trial Championship at the Adams County Justice Center in Brighton on Saturday, beating out Lakewood High School’s A Team in the final round.

It is Glenwood Springs’ first state title since 2005, a win that capped a run of five straight state championships from 2001 to 2005.

Glenwood’s mock trial teams have continued to earn several regional championships and make state mock trial appearances in recent years, but the state title has proven elusive.

So, Saturday’s win served as a crowning achievement, especially for the senior team members.

“All we’ve really been trying to do the past two years is get to the championship round,” said Bergren-Aragon. He has been involved in mock trial all of his four years at GSHS, including three years on teams that went to state.

“It was really great to do that, and to finally win the state championship. It’s exciting for Glenwood to once again return to nationals, and we’re looking forward to bringing back our first national title,” he said.

Past Glenwood Springs teams have never won the national competition, but they have come close, taking second place in 2003 and third the year before that.

Bergren-Aragon and fellow seniors Isabel Carlson, Joseph Ciborowski, Alex Pototsky and Hope Whitman were joined by sophomores Erica Arensman, Grace Gamba and Eileen Klomhaus on this year’s winning team at state.

Glenwood’s B Team placed ninth in the state competition, which included a total of 24 teams from around the state. The B team comprised Olivia Hayes, Isaac Carlson, Alex DeLeo, Sawyer Linman, Claire McKenna, Drew Metzger, Elise Metzger, Mats Rosen and Rachel Rosenberg.

Individual awards from the state judges went to Bergren-Aragon for best attorney, and to Pototsky and Carlson for best witnesses. B Team members Carlson and DeLeo also won awards for best attorney.

“I think we were more composed,” Bergren-Aragon said, explaining why the A team prevailed in final balloting over Lakewood High School. “One of the biggest things the judges look for is how personable you can be with a jury. I think that allowed us to the get to the final round and prevail.”

In mock trial competition, students perform roles of witnesses and attorneys in a hypothetical case, using legal skills and critical thinking skills to analyze materials and produce written and spoken communication.

The regional and state competitions asked each team to present the hypothetical civil case of Cullen v. Stuart to panels of judges, who score the competition. The case involved a plaintiff who developed what’s known as generalized anxiety disorder, allegedly because of cyberstalking or harassment by electronic communication. As a result, the plaintiff lost a scholarship worth as much as $60,000.

Teams headed to nationals won’t know the case they’ll be presenting until early April, coach Willman said. That short turn-around time to prepare for the national competition makes it that much more challenging, he said.

“It’s a very compressed time frame to prepare,” he said. “The challenge is that the kids have to spend almost nonstop time working on the problem, which means meeting three or four times a week as a team, with usually one full day on the weekends.”

As part of the preparation, Willman said they will also be scrimmaging with the Glenwood B and C team members, and will also try to schedule a scrimmage with the winning team from Wyoming.

“We also have the opportunity to arrange scrimmages against four other teams at nationals before the competition begins,” he said.

“We’re pretty excited to be back at the top, and to get to go to nationals,” Willman said. “I think we did an exceptional amount of preparation beforehand, and we prepared in a number of different ways.

“A lot of it is just work ethic, and what you put into that preparation; and the right mix of kids,” he said.

Rounding out the top 10 at the state competition in order were Lakewood A, Regis Jesuit, Colorado Academy A, Kent Denver A, William Jackson Palmer B, Aurora Central A, William Jackson Palmer A, Glenwood Springs B, and Rock Canyon A.

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