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Thoughts on mock trial’s four-year winning streak

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By Elizabeth McGlamry

It’s the night before my last state competition. That and my closing argument keep running through my head on repeat, making it impossible to go to sleep. I can hear my teammates giggling in the other room. I have been in this position for four years, but it had never gotten easier. Getting to sleep was always a perilous feat before state, so I tried to think back to my years on the team.

It comes in flashes, but I can see moments of the state competition from years before. I see freshman year, diving to the floor to hug then-senior Sarah Bufkin to tell her that we had won state. I can feel the rug burns on my knees and I can see the holes and rips in my panty-hoes from the rough carpet.

I see sophomore year, passing notes to Caroline McKay and Nally Kinnane at counsel table and covertly laughing at all of the stupid mistakes we were making throughout the round.

I see junior year, standing next to (and towering over) Archie Kinnane in front of an empty jury box the morning of state, doing our demonstrative dance. Kenny Cochran was beat boxing into a microphone and Jasmine Burnett was shaking her head and laughing.

It’s hard to think of the possibility of all of this going away, but I finally fall asleep.

Each morning of state I distinctly remember waking up and wondering why the time 5:45 a.m. exists. It is an ungodly hour that always takes me by surprise. I wake up as the rest of the team, scattered throughout my house, starts to stir. I get dressed, fix my hair, grab my shoes and head downstairs. As I walk down, one of the last ones to come to breakfast, of course, I see my team around my dining room table. Ties askew and eyes droopy, they are teasing each other and laughing at the possibilities later that day. It makes me smile to think of how far I had come with this motley crew, but only until I realize that the competition is in a few hours.

On our way to Gwinnett, Molly Daniel pumps us up with classic mock trial songs. Though she wasn’t on the team anymore, she still came with us to support us. We were rocking out on the highway and getting excited for our rounds. As we pulled into the parking lot, we had psyched ourselves up enough to enter the courtroom with confidence.

Our first round was a bit of a shock. Living each round like it could be my last, I tried to incorporate what I had learned in my experience on the mock trial team.

Smile. As a little, scared freshman, I thought the most important thing was to be professional. After a couple of rounds, however, my coaches noticed that doing this made me look like a death robot. They told me I needed to lighten up, make the round more of a conversation. So, after four years, I tried to smile.

Walk with a purpose. This was mostly a correction for Shaun Kleber, who used to have to choreograph his speeches and examinations because if he didn’t, his movements would make no sense. His hands would be uncontrollable and he’d creepily glance at the jury instead of just opening up to them like a normal person. It’s easy, in the courtroom, to move like an idiot and not realize it, but it is extremely distracting. No step without a reason.

Plan ahead. Because you are going up against a team you know nothing about, you have to be prepared for anything. Unknown objections, out-of-the-box case theory, a strange accent. Any one of those things can throw you off if you aren’t ready for them. In my four years, I have seen a lot, though I still get caught off guard if I’m not paying attention.

After the first two rounds of the day, we headed to the awards ceremony. The first part is somewhat of a “Mock Trial dance,” complete with a DJ and a dance floor. This is the part where my team and I are sitting on the floor near a trashcan, trying to nap. After the dancing, the administrators announce awards, recognize each team and announce the final four—the absolute last thing they choose to do.

So after waiting for two hours they finally readied the room for the announcement. Grady High School was the first team said, and our whole team jumped from the floor into one giant hug. We were definitely too loud for the occasion, but we were just so surprised that we couldn’t contain ourselves.

As we regrouped after the ceremony, our coach Carl Gebo couldn’t stop smiling. I genuinely think he was as surprised as we were that we had gotten this far. It always seems as if we pull everything together last minute, and poor Carl is always along for that rollercoaster ride.

At this point, I am surprised he hasn’t gone completely crazy. Over the years, I have asked the stupidest questions and done the dumbest things during rounds. In practice, Carl has laid down on the floor in frustration or turned his chair around as to not have to look at our failure. He has yelled and teased but somehow, we managed to step up our game. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s always been an amazing and effective coach.

That night, we worked out the kinks in our cases to the tune of Chic-fil-a. We ran our work product a couple of times, worked on objections and readied for our next round. I now realized that the next round could definitely be my last round of high school mock trial ever, and I knew that I had to go out with a bang.

Our third round was amazing. Against the Middle Georgia Christian Homeschool Association, it was an excellent round of mock trial. Both teams were on their a-game and it was a great semi-final round. After we found out we won, the other team was so nice. They had nothing but complimentary things to say to us, and we appreciated them being so professional.

The final round. It was actually here. No matter what, this would be my last round of Georgia High School mock trial. I had been in 46 rounds with nine different cases, three national competitions and two international competitions. This was the conclusion. I had nothing to do but give it my all.

As we sat in the familiar auditorium awaiting the announcement, I couldn’t stop shaking. I had been here, in this same place, three times before, but it had never gotten easier. The other team, Atlanta International School, sat next to us, expectant. They were, as the level of competition would expect, another excellent team. We had seen them at region before, but never at state, though years before they had certainly deserved it. The collective heartbeat of my team was beating at a dangerously rapid rate, and we tightly grasped our hands together. It was silent.

And the team that will join us in Albuquerque, NM to represent the state of Georgia is, once again, Grady High School!

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