Mock trial team wins individual awards, third in county

Despite obstacles in the Monterey Mock Trial County Competition, leading to Carmel placing third, the dedicated members of the Carmel team refused to have their season end there, moving on to the Santa Cruz County tournament as a replacement team to fill out the bracket.

This was Carmel’s ninth year competing in the Monterey County tournament. Palma came in second place, going 3-1 till the finals, but losing to Pacific Grove in their second and final trials.

“County was really rough,” senior Molly McNeely says. “I’ve done a lot of things that make me really proud, and I have a lot to be proud of, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud in my life than walking out of that courtroom with our team on Saturday morning.”

Throughout the tournament, Carmel nearly went 4-0, but the first trial ended in a controversial loss to Pacific Grove.

“We tied the first trial, which is unheard of,” attorney- and teacher-coach Bill Schrier says. “Then the judge picked the other team to win, and we lost a spot in the final to a team, [Palma], we didn’t even get a chance to try a case against.”

According to the mock trial rulebook, in the case of a tie, the presiding judge chooses a winner. The judge chose P.G. over Carmel, changing the tie into a loss for Carmel and a win for Pacific Grove, who went undefeated in the competition.

“County was a really great experience,” senior expert witness Ryan Albert remarked. “I thought our team was super prepared, and we did really well in all our trials. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t work out the way you would like.”

The Carmel team had put hours of work into practice, at least four hours per week since August, but as the tournament neared, the amount escalated to eight hours at times, not including the work done outside of scheduled practices. All those hours were to prepare for four guaranteed trials at county.

Even though Carmel did not make it to the final round, the hours of practice paid off with three team members winning individual awards. Alyssa Knapp, club president and lead attorney on both sides, won Outstanding Prosecution Attorney, McNeely won Outstanding Defense Attorney, and sophomore Savannah Foster won Outstanding Prosecution Witness. It was the first time McNeely and Knapp were attorneys and the first time Foster was a varsity witness.

“It’s always nice to get recognized for what you do,” Knapp says. “And it proved Schrier right because he’s been telling me since freshman year to be an attorney.”

Along with the individual awards, junior Chris Good placed second in the journalist competition, a separate competition that does not affect the score of the mock trial team. By placing in second, Good will compete as a journalist in the mock trial state competition held in San Jose this March.

While Carmel did not get the opportunity to compete in the final round, the season is not over, Schrier says. The Carmel team has competed in the Santa Cruz county tournament to fill out the bracket.

The Santa Cruz tournament gave the team another opportunity to prove themselves. Despite not being allowed to win, since Carmel is out of the county lines, the tournament also shows the team how counties outside of Monterey run their tournament.

Unlike Monterey’s, the Santa Cruz tournament has a preliminary round where the top four teams are determined and then go to a knock-out round. Santa Cruz also has teams use letters instead of their schools’ names to prevent scoring judges from having any bias affect scores.

-Caitlin Chappell