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GSHS makes strong case for the little guy

Staff Report

Mar 12, 2002

The verdict is in.

Glenwood Springs High School’s Mock Trial team is No. 1.

The 10-member team defeated two of the fiercest teams at state competition, held Friday and Saturday in Fort Collins.

The win advanced the Demon litigators to the national competition, which will be held May 9-12 in St. Paul, Minn.

The win is a first for GSHS.

“This is an incredible accomplishment,” said Garfield County Judge Victor Zerbi, the team’s head coach. “I’m proud of each and every one of those kids.”

Winning team members are seniors Will Click, Chas Salmen, Zac Brewer, Jake Taufer, Ashley Holtum and Joel Banuelos, juniors Marco Salmen, Alec Littler and Emily Cochran and sophomore Abby Willman.

“It’s always been `David vs. Goliath’ with this team,” said Zerbi. For years, the team has struggled to defeat Kent Denver and Regis, two private Denver schools that put a tremendous amount of resources and dedication into winning the event. In 1999, GSHS lost to Regis by only one point, and Kent placed second at this year’s competition.

“They set the standards we have tried to attain,” said Zerbi.

Zerbi said he’s not surprised with the win. “I felt this particular team had tremendous ability and could win if they rose to the challenge.”

In its 9-year Mock Trial history, GSHS has sent at least one team to regional competition every year. In the last four years, at least two teams have qualified for state competition.

At the state level, GSHS teams have also placed second two times, third three times, and fourth or fifth place on more than one occasion. This year, three teams qualified for state, but rules only allow for two teams from each school. About 75 teams compete at the state level.

GSHS Team No. 2 included Hayley Harris, Jason Treadwell, Aaron Rowland, Jacob Ziemann, Shelby Sadler, Lindsay Ball, Robert Dubois, Ashley Jentzsch, Jessica Beck, Caitlin Barnes and Christi Slater.

Not only is this the first time a Western Slope school has advanced to nationals, said Zerbi, it is the first time in the competition’s 17-year history that a school this small has won.

“It’s a lot of pressure to be able to stand on their feet and think on their feet and come up with nearly anything they throw your way,” said Wes Burke, GSHS government and geometry teacher and the team’s school sponsor.

Since Mock Trial is an extracurricular activity, it takes an added amount of dedication from each team member.

The win truly was a team effort, added Burke. Service clubs, the GSHS Booster Club, local banks and 16 attorneys all helped make it happen. Parents have also provided a huge amount of support and tremendous commitment. “It wouldn’t work without all of them,” Burke said.

Only the top two winners were announced at the event. Other team places will be announced later this week.

Rifle High School also sent a team to the state competition. Members included seniors Angela Aibner, Pamela Schieldt, Gracie Filiss, Darren Walpole, Kira Harrison and William VanTeylingen, junior Zack Akin, sophomore Sally VanTeylingen and freshman D.C. Leo.

“I felt really good about the competition,” said Marilyn Latham, RHS teacher and the team’s sponsor. “The team did the best they’ve done in a few years.”

Glenwood Springs attorney David Hallford and Rifle District Court Judge Stephen Carter also gave a considerable amount of time, energy and expertise to the Rifle team’s effort, said Latham.

Mock Trial, according to the Colorado Bar Association, which sponsors the event, was created in part “to promote and further understanding of and appreciation for the judicial system, court procedures and the American judicial system.”

Teams of attorneys and witnesses compete against each other in simulated court trial situations. The same story line is used by Mock Trial teams statewide.

Teams must prepare an entire case, including evidence, witnesses, and opening and closing arguments. Whether they argue for the prosecution or for the defense is decided just minutes before they present their case, so they must be fully prepared to go either way. This year’s case involved hazing.

In early April, the American Bar Association will present the winning teams from across the country, about 40 in all, with a new case, according to Zerbi. They will have only five weeks to prepare their prosecution and defense cases.

Then there’s the cost.

Burke estimated that the five-day trip will cost the team $10,000. Of that, the Colorado Bar Association will cover $3,500.

“This is an expensive venture,” said the team’s drama coach, Cris Aronson. An anonymous donor has offered to match part of the funds raised, leaving the team to raise between $2,000 and $5,000.

Only eight team members will be allowed to compete, but all 10 members will travel to St. Paul.

“We’re taking the whole team because this is a team victory,” said Aronson. Expenses will include four nights lodging, food, air travel and car rental for team members, Zerbi and a second coach, attorney Charlie Willman.

“Every cent that we earn will go right to state,” said Aronson.

Anyone wishing to donate funds for the team’s travel expenses may call Aronson at 947-8227.

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