Mock Trial Gears up for Nationals


Courtesy of Jason Schumann

Mock trial team OTH prepares for the National High School Mock Trial Championship

Max Berry-Stoelzle, Reporter

With hearts racing, the senior Mock Trial team from City High school anxiously awaits the announcement of the 2021 Mock Trial State Champion. “The team receiving the most judge ballots and named the State Champion for 2021…” John Wheeler, the organizer of the State Mock Trial tournament announced, pausing for dramatic effect “Congratulations to team OTH from Iowa City High School.” The team erupted into cheers as they realized what they had just achieved. Not only had they performed the best a City High team had ever done at the State Mock Trial tournament, but they had also qualified for the national tournament.

“We all practiced a lot [and] everyone put in an incredible amount of work,” Katherine Geerdes ‘21, one of the attorneys for the team said. “We figured out the best way to work in the online format [and] got an incredible amount of help from our coaches. I’m so happy we’re going to nationals.”

The previous best placement a City High team had achieved in their mock trial season was fifth-place at State. This year, two of the City High teams broke that record, with one reaching the semifinals and the other winning the entire tournament. Now the winning City High team plans to continue on and set an even better record.

“I think the team did a fantastic job,” Coach Lisa Williams said. “They exceeded all expectations, [and now] they would probably tell you that their goal is to win Nationals.”

Throughout the course of the season, the City High Mock Trial teams have spent countless hours practicing their case.

“They worked on their own, worked in attorney and witness pairs, we met in small groups via Zoom and even did full scrimmages with our other teams,” Williams said. “The success at the state tournament was a direct result of how hard the team worked. This team put in hours and hours of practice and at State they got to see the results of all that hard work.”

In addition to the team’s success in the tournament, City High also ended up with two All-State Witnesses: Tobey Epstein, for his performance as Hays Hamilton; and Madelyn Hellwig, for her role as Pat Towne. City High’s Shoshanna Hemley was named All-State Attorney.

“The best part was just seeing everything come together at the end,” Geerdes said. “Having to do so many rounds for State really made our improvement clear after we [had] spent so many hours competing.”

The National Tournament this year will be held over Zoom on May 12-15, giving the team less time to prepare than was given for the State tournament.

“[Now we’re getting] even more practice,” Geerdes said. “We only have around a month and a half to write our entire case and learn the rules for Nationals, so it’s a lot of work in a pretty short [amount of] time.”

Just because there is less time, however, does not mean that the preparation is going to be much different.

“We are preparing [much] the same way,” Williams said. “When the problem first came out we got together and decided on a theme for each side. Now everyone is working on their parts, [and] on the weekends we meet in one on one sessions to go through [parts] and answer questions. The next phase will be for everyone to start memorizing their parts.”

Since the team is composed entirely of seniors, it is their final year of high school Mock Trial.

“My goal is for the students to enjoy this one last opportunity to do Mock Trial together, [and] I hope they enjoy the experience working together with their team,” Williams said.