Cleveland’s Mock Trial Battles It Out in Regionals

By Camilia Saulino, Reporter

On Saturday, March 3, Cleveland’s mock trial team went to regionals to debate a very important issue: teen texting and driving. On its fifth year running, the team has 27 people, the biggest it’s ever been.

The current issue in debate, texting and driving, is a huge cause of deaths for teens, and an important issue to debate, so the big team spent a lot of time preparing.

Since mock trial is a club, students practice on their own time, as well as meeting once a week after school and on weekends. Students practice direct examinations, cross examinations, opening and closing arguments, and run practice trials. In addition, student-lawyers are trained in actual courtroom procedure and the federal rules of evidence.

This year, Cleveland’s team just missed making it to state finals, but their A team (Gold team) was strong, and their B team (Green team) had a hard battle against Lakeridge. On the Gold team, Grace Oh, senior; Gwen Kaliszewski, junior; and Ariel Harmon, senior, got awarded MVP. On the Green team, the MVPs were Avery Edwards, freshman; Isabelle Jacqmotte-Parks, sophomore; and Ella Stout, sophomore.

On the topic of the case, Coach Natalie Wight said, “There are many people who will admit that they have texted while driving. In this case, a student was texting, veered out of her lane, and killed an elderly woman.” She added, “The true lesson of the case is that there were no winners in a criminal case involving texting and driving. It is simply never worth the risk.”

Wight, who is a federal prosecutor and Cleveland grad, and her husband, Casey Nokes, trial litigator at a Portland law firm, are the coaches of this team. Wight says that mock trial is beneficial in many ways. Students learn to marshall facts to win arguments, speak persuasively, and be a reliable teammate. But she says that what is most special about mock trial is that it’s like a family.

“We all learn to laugh at ourselves with each other and it makes us stronger,” said Wight.

Lyle Altschul, a junior on the team, says that mock trial is one of the most fun extracurriculars he’s involved in.

“It’s a really supportive environment and just generally a really good time,” Altschul says.

On how he felt the competition went, he said, “I was on our [Green] team so I wasn’t trying to advance to state. Instead we were trying to get our newbies acquainted with what a competition looked like. In the end I think we learned a lot about future strategies and had a lot of fun. We gave it our best shot and had a blast.”

Overall, although Cleveland’s team didn’t make it to state, what’s most important is that everyone had a good time, and it was a great learning experience.