Rock Canyon’s mock trial team heads for nationals

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Rock Canyon High School’s mock trial team will represent Colorado at the national competition in May.

The RCHS team won the state event in Boulder March 10, surpassing 23 other Colorado schools. The nationals are held May 3 through 6 in Albuquerque, and will include more than 1,000 students from the U.S., its territories and South Korea.

The six students edged out Colorado Springs’ Palmer High School team during the championship round of the Colorado Bar Association State Mock Trial Tournament.

Under the direction of RCHS social studies teacher and head track coach Christopher Page, this year marked the third time RCHS won the regional event and the first time it took the state title.

“I started crying,” said junior Chandler Hughes. “It was emotional. It’s still so hard to believe that after working this hard, we finally made it.”

During the state competition, the 24 teams tried a fictitious criminal murder case surrounding a missing teenage girl and precious few clues. Characters in the case each were given “Jersey Shore” monikers, and were prepared to perform on either the prosecution or defense side of the case.

Practicing and retired attorneys and judges evaluated the performances, which represented long hours of after-school work. To prepare for the 45-minute trial, the RCHS team practiced for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday beginning last fall.

Page and assistant mock trial coach Emily Nault, a fellow social studies teacher, offer advice and support.

“I get really nervous, but we’re prepared enough that we feel comfortable,” team president and senior Rema Maalika said.

Students who take on the attorney roles prepare opening statements and closing arguments. Those named as witnesses receive affidavits. Just as actors would, they study and take on each witness’ characteristics.

Though some of the RCHS team members have participated in mock trial for years, none of the national competitors intend to pursue a career in the field of law.

Junior Srish Sharma said the skills he’s learning on both the mock trial and school debate teams, such as thinking quickly and making eloquent, effective arguments, can be applied to any career.

“We learn how to speak and how to carry ourselves,” Hughes said, adding that considering an issue from several points of view “helps you relate to others.”

Like all attorneys and witnesses preparing for trial, the six RCHS students already are nervous about the national competition. They won’t know details of the case until April 1. Until then, Page encouraged them to revel in their victory.

RCHS students Dale McMillan and Abby Thumann will be alternatives for the national competition.

The Colorado Bar Association dedicates funds to the winning team for the cost of attending the national competition.

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