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Mock trial team captures 4th consecutive state title

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By Konadu Amoakuh

High school students dressed in skirts and pantsuits hold hands, awaiting the announcement of the state champions. When they hear their school’s name, the group explodes into a flurry of movement, with many hugs and tears.

On March 18, the Grady mock trial team won its fourth consecutive state championship at the Gwinnett Justice Center. The competition began March 17 with 18 regional winners and two wildcard teams each competing in two rounds. Saturday evening, the team found out it had advanced to the semifinal round on Sunday along with three other teams. After decisively beating the Atlanta International School in the final round, Grady clinched the state title. They will compete in the National High School Mock Trial Competition in Albuquerque, N.M., from May 4-5.

The team members and coaches expressed a lot of emotions about their win.

“It felt extraordinary,” third-year teacher-coach and PEC teacher Brian Leahy said. “It wasn’t something I expected, but it was something I hoped and wished for.”

In high school mock trial, students compete as attorneys and witnesses, each school forming both a prosecution and a defense team arguing both sides of the same fictional case. There are 14 competing members, and the students prepare for about three months before competing in the regional competition. If the team wins the regional tournament,  it advances to state. All the members of the team had been working very hard on the case since the Georgia high school mock trial committee released the case on Nov. 1.

Sophomore team member and witness Archie Kinnane didn’t feel as confident going into the competition as he did the previous year.

“I felt like we could win, but I didn’t know if we were going to,” Kinnane said. “I was kind of surprised we won because we didn’t spend as much time preparing.”

The two-day state competition was suspenseful for the team, and while waiting for the results, senior Atiana Johnson said she and her teammates closed their eyes and held hands.

“The moment leading up to it, you’re on pins and needles because you know you’ve done everything you can do, and you hope they call your school’s name,” Johnson said.

This fourth consecutive win was especially meaningful for seniors who had been on the team all four years of high school and can say they have only known what it is like to win a state championship, Leahy said.

“Apparently in ninth grade I told [our coach] I wanted to be a part of a team that won state all four years in a row, and I’ve accomplished that,” Johnson said.
The team credits much of its success to the support and cooperation of the parents.

“The closeness and the family atmosphere really make the team unique,” Leahy said.

Attorney coach Trinh Huynh agreed and stressed the large size of the Grady mock trial family.

“The team’s success is due in a large part to the support we get from everyone involved in Grady mock trial, not just the students that compete,” Huynh said. “Our parents are dynamite. They spend countless hours selling water and manning the parking lot on the weekends to raise funds for our competitions. On competition days, they provide healthy meals, rides to the courthouse and a nurturing environment after the rounds.”

Huynh also credits the team’s success to the rest of the coaching staff like Leahy and head attorney coach Carl Gebo.

Despite the team’s many wins, the students haven’t become complacent.

“Ever since I have been on the coaching staff, our goals for the team have been the same:  to work the case and to have fun doing it,” Huynh said. “Being recognized for our effort with a win is just icing on the cake of what we hope has been a wonderful experience for everyone.”

For some students, mock trial has been helpful and an instructive tool in shaping their understanding about law.

“I intend to go to law school, hopefully, and I want to be an attorney,” Johnson said. “[Mock trial] has helped me get a feel for whether I want to go into law.”

Though their most recent win is very exciting, the team knows they have a lot of work to do.

“We were all very proud and happy that it happened, but we understood that this was another step in us hopefully bringing a national title to Georgia,” Leahy said.

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Mock trial team captures 4th consecutive state title