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After winning the Illinois State Bar Association State competition in March, an historic first title for the school in the competition, the Evanston Township High School mock trial team earned top 10 honors at the Nationals held May 13 through 15 via Zoom. Facing off against 45 other high schools from across the United States (as well as one from South Korea), ETHS finished eighth in its first-ever appearance.
“Our seniors have placed in the top eight in state every year they participated, including a third-place finish in 2019 … the last year there was a state tournament,” said Kevin Kappock, in his eighth year as coach. “This team succeeded because it was very self-motivated, holding their own students-only practices outside of our regularly scheduled meetings. We have a strong tradition of the more experienced members helping and teaching the newer members, and that was particularly true this year.”
Mock Trial is a competition in which students play attorneys and witnesses in a short jury trial. During competitions, real judges preside in real courtrooms with a panel of three attorneys acting as a jury.
As the event was to be held in Evansville, Ind., the Indiana Bar Foundation hosted the online tournament. The case put forth was State of Indiana v. Smith Dawson, a case involving a ship captain charged with reckless homicide and leaving the scene of an accident after a collision on the Ohio River in which one man was killed. The national tournament consisted of four trials. The nine-student team played the prosecution twice and the defense twice.
“I was extremely proud of my team and very excited to be able to represent Illinois at Nationals,” said Tri-Captain Josie Hansen, a senior. “We have very versatile team members. No one on our team is just an attorney or just a witness. Everybody is capable of doing any role and we have the people on the team to coach each other to be the best we can.
“I think the biggest challenge that the team faced going into Nationals was the time commitment,” she continued. “There was a lot of independent work being done and late-night zoom sessions.”
The team has become quite consistent over the last 15 years, making it to the Illinois finals, consisting of eight teams, 12 times since 2006. This year, ETHS was the only public school to finish in the top three at the State competition.
“We have shown our school, our town, our state, and our country that we are top 10 in the entire U.S.,” said Tri-Captain Eloisa Tirres, also a senior. “Winning State was a reflection of years of hard work and a very challenging year. Considering it was our first time at nationals, we didn’t totally understand the level of competition we would be going against. It was helpful to scrimmage against other teams like the State of California.”
The Mock Trial team totaled 29 members with representation from across each of the four classes. Along with Eloisa, Josie and junior Tri-Captain Grace McGinley, the team at nationals included India Aaron (senior), Rory Behm (junior), Kitty Colton (junior), Jessie Gerber (sophomore), Sydney TerMolen (junior) and Coco Walker.
“The team is very well prepared to build on our success this year,” Josie said. “We had a ton of underclassmen and juniors who really showed up this year. I am very excited to see how it does next year.”
— By Steve Johnson