Pickerington Times-Sun

PHS Central Mock trial team's run ends at state contest

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The Pickerington High School Central mock trial team's season came to an end after first-place wins at the district and regional levels qualified it for a run at a state championship.

Central's 11-member mock trial team was one of 26 -- from an initial pool of 356 -- to advance to the state level in the 30th annual Mock Trial Competition.

The team's run ended in the first round of the state contest.

"We were among 26 teams out of 356 that competed at state," said Julie Brunner, a guidance counselor at Central and a co-adviser for the school's mock trial team. "So we felt pretty good about that."

The state champion was from Indian Hill High School near Cincinnati. That team will go on to compete in a national contest at Indianapolis May 9-11.

Central's team included seniors Chelsea Appiah, who acted as an attorney; Esther Ladipo, who played a witness; Chris Miller and Phil DeGennaro, who both acted as bailiffs and timekeepers.

Junior team members were Terry Peppers, Sarah Grim, Michaela Stamper and Collin Ferrell, who each served as witnesses, and Aisha Shariff and Danielle Kunkel, who both acted as attorneys.

Sophomore Haley Ramey served as an attorney throughout the competitions.

The team was assisted by Brunner and fellow co-adviser Leigh Farrington, an Advanced Placement government teacher at Central.

Additionally, real-life attorneys Scott Walker, James Ferguson and Grant Garber helped coach the Central team.

The Ohio Center for Law Related Education provides high school mock trial teams with a court case each year, which, although hypothetical, features elements of actual court cases. This year, the case involved an alleged crime and confession by a high school student.

Each team had members who attempted to defend and prosecute the case at a preliminary hearing. They, respectively, had to argue whether the student's confession was coerced or if it should be allowed as evidence at a future trial.

"(Our team) went up against two different schools in the district and they had to win both cases," Brunner said. "Then they went up against two different schools at the regional competition and had to win both cases."

Brunner said she's been involved in mock trial programs in Pickerington since 1991.

She said she remains involved in the program, which is offered in the Pickerington Local School District as an extracurricular activity, because it provides students an education in the American justice system and challenges their skills in various other areas that will help them as they go on to college and professional life.

"It's a great way to get to know the kids and it's a great way to work closer with the kids," Brunner said. "It's very rewarding.

"You can definitely see a progression of skills from the beginning to the end of the school year and over the years for kids who come back and do it more than one year.

"They definitely gain a ton of confidence in themselves and their public speaking abilities," she said. "They learn how to reason and think on their feet, and they learn a ton about law and the court system."

Central's mock trial team was established following tryouts held last October.

Since that time, Brunner said, team members practiced approximately six to eight hours each week.

"They worked really, really hard," she said. "They were a great team and they worked really well together."

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