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GSHS mock trial team places third at nationals

Staff Report

May 10, 2011

Glenwood Springs High School’s mock trial team took third place at the National High School Mock Trials Championship in Phoenix over the weekend.

The nine-member team from Glenwood Springs won all four of its preliminary rounds, but just missed out in the tie-breaker scoring system for the opportunity to advance to the championship round Saturday afternoon.

“The kids did just phenomenal,” said attorney head coach Charlie Willman. “You can’t get closer to perfection. We could not have asked for more from these young people.”

This year’s national championship included a record 48 teams from 43 states, plus Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, South Korea and, for the first time, Australia.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor opened the tournament awards banquet at the Phoenix district courthouse named in her honor.

First place went to John Adams High School of South Bend, Ind., and the runner-up was the Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School of St. Louis, Mo.

Glenwood Springs marked its fifth appearance in 10 years at nationals, including previous second- and third-place finishes. Colorado’s representative last won the national title in 1990.

Prior to nationals, the Glenwood Springs team bested Lakewood High School at the state mock trial tournament.

This year’s team members included seniors Christian Bergren-Aragon, Isaac Carlson, Isabel Carlson, Joseph Ciborowski, Alex Pototsky and Hope Whitman, and sophomores Erica Arensman, Grace Gamba and Eileen Klomhaus.

Pototsky won an individual award for best witness, and Bergren-Aragon won for best attorney.

“I could not have asked for a better way to end my career as a Glenwood Springs High School Mock Trial participant,” Bergren-Aragon said. “I love my coach, I love my team, and I love my state.”

Vic Zerbi and Wes Burke accompanied the team as assistant attorney coaches, along with GSHS teacher-coach Bryan Gonzales.

In mock trial competitions, teams prepare for both sides of a case, and don’t find out which side they will present until they step into the courtroom.

For nationals this year, the case involved a hypothetical dispute in northern Arizona between a Native American tribe and a uranium mining company. It focused on whether the expansion of the mining operations would impact the water and wildlife on the land and significantly impact the public health and safety of the native residents.

Students had about one month to prepare, and were judged on how well they knew the case, as well as how they questioned witnesses, advocated their side of the case, and made and responded to objections.

Dramatic speaking, persuasive argument skills and witness role-playing are also factors in judging.

“This team has worked unbelievably hard to get to this place,” said Carolyn Gravit, director of the Colorado Bar Association’s Public Education. “These students will succeed at whatever they do in life. I am honored to be a part of this program.”

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