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Glenwood mock trial team departs for nationals

Will Grandbois

May 5, 2014

This is the sixth time in 11 years Glenwood Springs High School has taken the mock trial state title and headed to nationals, but when the team departs for Madison, Wis., on Tuesday, it will be a new experience for most of the current members.

GSHS previously finished third in the country in 2011, while its best performance was second place in 2002.

“Success breeds success,” coach Vic Zerbi observed.

Even so, for a small public high school, it’s an unprecedented run. Unlike most traditional sports, mock trial doesn’t sort schools by enrollment. Glenwood’s kids match wits with students from the most elite private institutions and the biggest public schools.

“I’m confident these kids can win this tournament.”coach Charlie Willman

“We’re normally the smallest school in the major competitions,” said coach Charlie Willman.

Even so, Willman has no doubts that the team will stack up well among the 46 teams that will compete in four rounds on May 9 and 10. “I’m confident these kids can win this tournament,” he said.

In competition, students will argue a civil case to determine whether an apparent accident was, in fact, an intentional poisoning. In contrast to the three months of preparation allowed for the state tournament, the team has only had the national case details since April 1.

“It’s like prepping for a week to run a mile versus prepping for a day to run a marathon,” explained junior Ben Neiley. “There’s a lot of pieces and parts to work with. It’s a very extensive case for the time we have.”

The crew will hone their skills earlier in the week with scrimmages against the state champions from Texas, Florida, Idaho and North Carolina.

For senior Olivia Hayes, it’s bittersweet. Hayes, a self-styled “mock trial junkie,” has grown close to her teammates but is looking forward to the chance to test her skills on the national stage. “I’m really excited to see how we do, because I think we’re a really good team and we work well together,” said Hayes.

Hayes and her teammates spoke of the “addiction” to the “adrenaline rush” of mock trial competition. Cassidy Creer, granddaughter of former chief judge T. Peter Craven, said she was initially “bullied” into joining mock trial because of her family ties but has since been unable to give it up. “Once you get into mock trial, there is no way of getting out,” she asserted.

Neily emphasized that mock trial isn’t just for students interested in law. “It prepares you for everything you do in your life,” he said, citing improvement in communication, critical thinking and the ability to think on your feet.

Glenwood Springs High School’s mock trial team consists of Francesca Chavez, Cassidy Creer, Rorey Freeman, Valerie Flores, Olivia Hayes, Ben Neiley, Andrew Schied and Kira Willis. It is coached by Wes Burke, Carol Craven, Siri Olsen, Charlie Willman and Vic Zerbi.

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