For the second consecutive year, both schools have reached the highest level of the Ohio Mock Trial Competition.
Mock trial teams from Lake and Perry high schools have advanced to the state competition in Columbus.
For the second consecutive year, both schools have reached the highest level of the Ohio Mock Trial Competition. The tournament begins Thursday at the Franklin County Courthouse before concluding Saturday at the Ohio Statehouse. A total of 36 teams are competing.
The initial district round included more than 3,000 high school students from across Ohio. All three of Lake's teams made it to the regional round.
The mock trial competition is sponsored by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education, a non-profit, non-partisan organization.
Lake's team blends experience and new members, said Teresa Miller, who teaches legal studies at Lake and coaches the mock trial squad.
"I think it's a success-breeds-success type of thing," she said. "Early on in the preparation you could clearly see that the students that had gone to state last year were leading. They got together on several occasions outside of my directive .. on their own and organized additional practices."
Students also scheduled practices to compensate for ones missed during snow days, Miller said.
"They've taken a lot of ownership," she said. "We're just again enjoying the ride and enjoying the success the students have had."
Perry's team consists mostly of students who were not among last year's state group.
"We're really surprised this year," said Debra Warstler, who teaches English at Perry and coaches the mock trial team. "We have almost all new kids."
"We're going to give it our all," she said. "Realistically, with a brand new team, we're not sure how they will do; we are certainly going to prepare in every way we can."
Lake's team includes Gabby Koesel, Autumn Crawford, Benjamin Nist, Samantha Wilhelm, Rachel Marszalkowski, Hannah Butt, Casey Marinics and Tiffany Beadnell.
Perry's team includes J.T. Greiner, Aubrianna Grisez, Taylor Anthony, Jacob Hervey, Lincoln Warstler, Sydnie Oakleaf, Kamryn Sparks and Blake Tausch.
Assisting Lake's team are advisers Ronald Starkey, a local attorney, and Stark County Family Court Judge David Nist. Assisting Perry is attorney John Burnworth.
Time and dedication
Each mock trial team consists of five to 11 students who assume the roles of witnesses and attorneys to present both sides of an original case based on a constitutional issue while competing against an opposing team.
The same case is used at each level of competition, including the state tournament; it was borrowed from the podcast "Serial," examining legal issues related to the post-conviction relief proceedings for a student who claims to have been wrongfully convicted of a 1998 crime.
The 2018 state champion team will represent Ohio at the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Reno, Nevada, on May 10 to 13.
Like sports, music and other extracurricular activities, mock trial requires dedication to excel, Warstler said.
"My kids are all involved in multiple activities and a couple of them work in addition to that and they're all top students and they know how to juggle (their responsibilities)," Warstler said. "And it's an incredibly demanding activity. I'm just very impressed with their dedication and all the hard work they put into it."
Asked what the key is to a successful mock trial team, Warstler said "it's in the recruiting of the kids and finding some kids who do have some speech background who have a little bit of poise in front of a group already."
Following last year's appearance in the state tournament, Miller said, the school is "looking to win a trial and just to be the best we can be on that day."
Mock trial competitions teach practical skills, Warstler said.
"I think it's handling yourself professionally, understanding the decorum that's demanded in that kind of atmosphere, respect for the court itself, thinking on your feet and thinking critically and analytically," Warstler said.
Those skills and traits will outlast the competition, Miller said.
"It doesn't matter what field you end up pursuing as an adult," she said of mock trial participants. "I think the mock trial experience ... is going to help you in so many different ways that is going to be applicable across careers."
"It's not the fact that you're going to state that is going to set you apart in the long run from your competition or your peers in the workforce but it's what you did to get there," Miller said. "It's the work and the effort that you put in behind the scenes that is going to make a difference in your life 10 years from now."
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