Reflecting on three years with CHS’ championship team

I joined the Carmel High mock trial team in the beginning of my sophomore year. Two and a half years later, with my high school career coming to a close, I can’t help but reflect on what we’ve done, and it is undeniable that mock trial has been a defining part of my high school experience.

In the past three seasons, the Carmel High mock trial program has become nearly unrecognizable. Of course, the success of any program ebbs and flows, but the growth of this team exceeded any expectations we could have had. For starters, three years ago, we were ecstatic to make it out of the Monterey County competition for the first time in three years and compete in the state finals. At that point, the best a Monterey County team had placed at state was an 11th place finish for Carmel  in 2010.

This year, Carmel High took first place in the California State Finals.

In May, we’ll be representing the state of California in the National High School Mock Trial Championship. It still feels strange to write that down. It seems outlandish to think that we, a ragtag bunch of 10 overstressed, over-worked high schoolers, could pull off anything even close to a state championship.

The way I see it, it all came down to a few things: hard work, abundant experience and blind luck.

Allow me give a brief window into the Carmel High mock trial team’s practice regimen: It’s 8 p.m. on a Tuesday, and the only people left on campus are a few custodians, our coach (history teacher Bill Schrier) and a handful of mock trial team members. We’re sitting in Schrier’s classroom, bleary-eyed, half-starved and reading through the case packet or rewriting a line of questioning or deciding on a new way to deliver an opening statement for the 500th time, all in preparation for the next impending tournament.

Let me tell you: You don’t spend close to 25 hours a week with a group of people without getting to know each one of them to an alarming degree of scientific certainty. Even so, it takes more than that to be a team. It takes a shared goal and undying commitment, a willingness to put aside what you may want in favor of what is best. It takes a realization that you didn’t spend countless weekends and late nights working to let an opportunity pass you by. This year, we have truly become the “well-oiled machine” Mr. Schrier calls us so often.

Of course, comparing us to the mechanical engineering of a machine leaves out the most critical part of mock trial: heart. More than anything, mock trial requires heart. That small spark, the little flame that powers us all.

To the disinterested observer, mock trials may seem dry or slow. But beneath the surface, there’s an energy that comes into play, comprised of thoughts left unsaid, of a battle of wits, of constantly trying to reach new heights and adapt gracefully. It feels like trying to run a marathon without breathing hard or taking breaks. It takes stamina, grace and, most importantly, passion.

Mock trial is not about natural-born talent, and that’s a fact. I have learned more about teamwork, poise, hard work, perseverance and loyalty in nearly three years on the Carmel High mock trial team than I did in 18 years elsewhere on the planet.

Turns out, the key to success is just a little elbow grease after all.

Sandpiper editor-in-chief Anna Gumberg, along with fellow CHS senior Mindy Morgan, was named Best Defense Attorney at the California Mock Trial Finals in March.

-Anna Gumberg