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Glenwood Springs sweeps mock trial regional tourney

John Stroud

Mar 1, 2011

Glenwood Springs High School’s mock trial teams swept the top three positions at the regional mock trial tournament in Grand Junction over the weekend. Two of those teams will now represent the school at the state competition later this month.

Three teams from GSHS comprising 24 students competed against two teams from Grand Junction and one from Durango at the Western Slope Regional on Friday and Saturday.

The meet was one of nine regional competitions in Colorado. The top two teams from each region advance to the state tournament, to be held March 11-12 at the Adams County Justice Center in Brighton.

The two state-bound teams are planning a scrimmage at 10 a.m. this Saturday, March 5, at the Garfield County Courthouse. The public is invited.

This year’s series of regional, state and national competitions challenges each team to present the hypothetical civil case of Cullen v. Stuart to panels of judges who score the competition. The case involves 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.

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

Glenwood’s No. 1 team came in first, winning all five rounds and all 15 ballots. The No. 2 team from GSHS was second with a 4-1 record, and Team 3 was third with a record of 3-2.

Two GSHS students, Alex Pototsky and Warren Knutson, won top witness awards and four students, Christian Bergren-Aragon, Isabel Carlson, Olivia Hayes and Kallie Felkey, won top attorney awards.

In fact, Bergren-Aragon garnered more top ballots for best attorney than any other attorney in the history of the Western Slope tournament, team coach and local attorney Charlie Willman said.

Mock trial is sponsored by the Colorado Bar Association. Each year, high school students from around Colorado are provided a legal case and, with the help of teacher and attorney coaches, adapt the materials to present three witnesses on each side of a hypothetical court case.

“Students must be able to think on their feet and speak extemporaneously regarding a complex set of facts,” according to a mock trial description from the bar association.

“This year scoring attorneys called Glenwood’s student performances ‘outstanding’ and ‘better than they see from many practicing attorneys,'” Willman said. “They also commented, ‘your knowledge of the rules of evidence is better than we often see in court.'”

This year, the GSHS teams are made up of 10 freshmen, seven sophomores, two juniors and five seniors, which is an unusually young team, Willman noted.

Headed for the state competition will be first team members Christian Bergren-Aragon, Isabel Carlson, Erica Arensman, Joseph Ciborowski, Grace Gamba, Eileen Klomhaus, Alex Pototsky and Hope Whitman; and the second team of Olivia Hayes, Isaac Carlson, Alex DeLeo, Sawyer Linman, Claire McKenna, Drew Metzger, Elise Metzger, Mats Rosen and Rachel Rosenberg.

Third team members include Kallie Felkey, Olivia Ayers, Louis Bini, Ivy Bowen, Mariah Kadrmas, Warren Knutson and Andrew Schied.

Co-coaching the first team with Willman are Tony Hershey, Hugh Warder and Dennis Walters. Second team coach is the local program’s founding attorney and judge, Vic Zerbi, and the third team is coached by a new attorney to the program, John Neiley. Bryan Gonzales is this year’s GSHS teacher sponsor for the mock trial team.

The local team has been preparing since before the start of this school year. Some participants went to a national tournament in New York, where they placed seventh, Willman said. Other students participated in the Providence Cup tournament in Denver, where they also had a good showing.

“Students spend on average 10 hours a week with coaches and another three to five hours of preparation,” Willman noted.

Out of approximately 100 teams statewide, 22 advance to the state tournament. The winner there advances to the National High School Mock Trial Tournament in May, to be held in Phoenix.

For four straight years from 2001-2005, mock trial teams from GSHS won the state championship, a feat not yet duplicated by any other school in the state.

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