After winning the North Dakota State competition, the Hettinger Public Mock Trial Team flew down to Athens, Georgia to compete in the National High School Mock Trial Championship.
Coaches Erin Melling and Aaron Roseland said that the opportunity to compete in the national competition would not have been possible without community support.
“The community and colleges across the state responded incredibly,” Roseland said. “A majority was raised locally through businesses and individuals.”
“We requested and they answered,” added Melling.
With the donated funds, Emily Shirek, Kelby Pemberton, Mack Buckmier, Kyle Burwick, Alyssa Andress, Ty Warbis, Zach Rickertson, and Mason DeFoe were able to compete as mock lawyers and mock witnesses on a national level.
Both Melling and Roseland said that the students were amazingly dedicated to the national competition. In the last weeks of preparation, the students practiced for hours almost every day of the week, perfecting their roles and speeches.
“The practice was excruciating,” said Melling. “I have no idea how they managed to do it. These kids would come from their baseball tournaments, FBLA, or wherever they were at practice until nine or ten at night. The level of dedication they showed was incredible.”
Moreover, Roseland said that, at the national level, the students had to learn more information with less time. Even still, the Hettinger held their own against kids that specialized in only Mock Trial.
Roseland explained that most other teams’ students focused solely on Mock Trial as their one extracurricular activity while most of the Hettinger team members are involved in a litany of other extracurricular.
Mock Trial is a new experience for Hettinger, let alone North Dakota. Going into the competition, Melling said that the Hettinger team was both nervous and excited.
“This was the first year that North Dakota has ever done Mock Trial, period. We didn’t have anybody to talk to, to know what we were getting into,” said Melling.
“We prepared as well as we could,” added Roseland. “We did everything that was in our power to do. It was eye opening to get there.”
The competition itself had 46 competing teams and, according to Melling and Roseland, it was highly competitive. The event was truly a national-level experience with teams representing Guam and even South Korea.
Over the two days of the competition, the Hettinger team went to trial against four different teams. For the first round, the Hettinger team competed against the Tennessee team, who ended up winning the national title. In the subsequent rounds, the Hettinger team competed against teams representing Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Georgia.
Although the Hettinger team didn’t place in the competition, Roseland said that the team blossomed over time and performed well on the national stage.
“I think overall, what I take away from this experience is watching these kids develop,” said Roseland. “At the end of the day, even if these kids don’t go into the practice of law, these kids are going to gain confidence in themselves and the ability to make logical and reasonable arguments.”
For the Hettinger team, Athens, Georgia wasn’t all cross-examinations, witness testimony, and competition. The students and coaches also took the opportunity to visit different attractions and monuments.
“…We saw a double barrel cannon from the civil war. We saw several of the historic Victorian-style houses from the 1800’s. We did an escape room and even the movies,” said Melling. “Before the Mock Trial competition, they had a quote on quote ‘tail-gate party.’ We can definitely say that North Dakota is number one in corn hole.”
Overall, Melling and Roseland said that they have already started preparing for next year’s competition in Indiana. Both coaches were thankful for the community’s support that allowed the trip to happen.
“Thank you so much to the community for stepping up. Not only in support but also in financial support,” said Melling. “Thank you to these kids for putting in the effort that they did, which was astounding. Thanks for everybody that believed in this program and please continue to support it in the future.”