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Students working at mock speed

April E. Clark

Feb 7, 2006

The Glenwood Springs High School Mock Trial team is not one to be mocked.With four consecutive state titles securely filed away, the team heads to the Western Slope regional tournament this weekend with the confidence of Perry Mason and the charisma of Johnnie Cochran.”I enjoy when we have actual competitions because we finally get to display everything we are capable of,” senior team member Sarah Lewis said. “At Glenwood Springs, we have a history of winning. Winning always feels good.”

Lewis returns to the regional competition as one of five team members who competed in last year’s National High School Mock Trial Championship. They include: Angie Vichick, Zac Parsons, Abri Yawa and Dylan Walters.”We hope to beat our score last year and do better than eighth in the nation,” said Lewis, who will attend Colorado State University to study pre-law and major in technical journalism.Vic Zerbi, GSHS Mock Trial program director and part-time municipal judge, said there are high expectations for the team, which has won more consecutive state titles than any other in Colorado.

“I think they have a target on their backs the size of Saturn. They are the only team to win four straight state titles,” said Zerbi, who organized the team 13 years ago when his daughter was a freshman at GSHS. “These are very bright kids who are working very hard with the help of 14 lawyers in the community. Some people think we should win all the time, and we definitely try – that’s our goal. But we are competing against some of the most talented kids in the state of Colorado.”The recipe for Glenwood’s success is the team’s commitment to Mock Trial from the start of the school year, Zerbi said. Other teams may not begin practice until the Colorado Bar Association releases the mock trial case problem Nov. 1, he said.”These kids start giving up one night a week the first day of school,” Zerbi said. “I think that has a lot to do with it.”Mock Trial coach Ruben Hernandez, a legal magistrate for the Garfield County Court, said the team’s prowess also stems from its cohesiveness and willingness to learn.

“They’ll burst into ‘Happy Birthday’ for someone at any moment, or they could cry together at any time. They keep me young,” said Hernandez, who the students call “His Majesty.” “We have a really successful program. I think it helps the kids think on their feet, and they get really good analytical skills and public-speaking skills.”Zerbi said he has seen Mock Trial affect students in positive ways over the years.”This is a program that promotes poise and confidence to speak out in public and argue issues,” he said. “If you’re going to do that, you need to understand the politics of the situation you’re in, and that’s how we sell the program.”

He added that students don’t always have to be on a career track in the field of law to be involved.”They learn an awful lot about the legal system and the law, and there is a broad variety of skills they are learning,” he said “But very few have become lawyers. Only two kids have become lawyers.”Lewis, who aspires to attend law school at Denver University, said her Mock Trial participation has been motivation to pursue a career in the legal system.

“I got into Mock Trial because I really wanted to be an attorney when I was younger,” said Lewis, who has been a member of Mock Trial since her freshman year. “If anything, it has reinforced it.”

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