SEATTLE – For the 10th straight year, Seattle Preparatory School’s mock trial team is headed to the national championships.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also really fun,” said Prep senior Elizabeth Shields, who has won the state title with her varsity team three years in a row. Prep took the national title in 2014, when Shields was named among the competition’s 10 outstanding attorneys.
At nationals, Shields and her teammates get the opportunity to make friends with competitors from around the country who share their passion. “Everyone there loves doing mock trial, so it’s great,” she said of the National High School Mock Trial Championship, being held May 12-14 in Boise, Idaho.
Mock trial is a team sport that puts students in the roles of opposing teams arguing a legal case before a real judge. It involves skills such as acting, public speaking, problem-solving and rhetoric, said Jen Freeman, who has been coaching mock trial with Andy McCarthy at Prep for about 18 years. Teams are scored on opening and closing arguments, witness questioning and witness responses.
This year at nationals, competitors will argue a case with a decidedly Idaho bent: A Basque sheepherder believes a neighboring cattle rancher has been infecting his livestock with a disease called bluetongue. (Boise has one of the highest populations of Basque Americans in the nation.)
Getting to nationals is hard work. After practicing about twice a week for the state competition, the 10-member Seattle Prep team is meeting every day for five weeks to be ready for nationals.
“Everything’s intensified,” said senior Anna Ferron, who competed with Shields in last year’s national championship, where Prep took 15th place. Prep teams have placed in the top 10 at nationals seven times.
“When Seattle Prep goes to nationals, they represent Washington well,” said Sarah Clinton, executive director of Washington YMCA Youth & Government, which sponsors the state mock trial event. In Washington, 750 students competed on 59 teams from around the state.
At the state championships in March, Seattle Prep’s junior varsity also did well, placing three spots behind third-place finisher Archbishop Murphy High School of Everett. In addition, two Seattle Prep students took individual honors in the final round: senior Patrick Paulsen for best witness and junior Davis Pessner for best attorney.
As Shields, Ferron and their teammates — Angela Lin, Thomas Mallick, Patrick Paulsen, Davis Pressner, Maslyn Pressner, Evan Sarantinos, Rachel Wang and Noelle Whitman — prepare for the tough competition ahead, they’re hoping to beat last year’s finish.
“I mean, 15th is still really good,” Ferron said. “It’s hard to gauge how good we are right now, but we’re hungry for another win.”
See the action