Mock Trial Nationals: Students at Law

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The national mock trial team and Coach Schwartzreich saw various sights while in Athens, including the Georgia Theatre and local restaurants. While some rounds took place at the courthouse, others took place at the Classic Center, a convention center set up to function as a mock courtroom. (Photo submitted by Annabella Lugo)

The mock trial team returned from their national competition in Athens, Georgia at the University of Georgia which took place May 16-18. The team, which included senior Talha Pala, juniors Annabella Lugo, Michelle Zapata, Kelly Celestre, Rohit Ramesh, Barak Huang and Meghan Lannon, sophomore Alexa Ruiz and freshman Abigail Canalejo surpassed all of their previous competitions, winning at regionals as well as their state championship (for the fifth time) and advancing to the national level.

Lugo, who is currently the public relations manager, historian and part of the fundraising committee for the Pre Law Society as well as a middle attorney on the mock trial team, explained how mock trial worked its national prep schedule. The team received the case problem a month before competition and practiced around four times a week. For most other competitions they usually have months of preparation,; however, with the short amount of time given for nationals, they were mostly focused on setting up multiple scrimmages with various teams.

Working with the team for over a decade, coaches Eric Schwartzreich and Mr. Michael Gilfarb, accompanied by  Francis Viamontes, Judge Haines and Judge Rothschild, oversaw the trip with Nikki Laurie as the legal program director.

“American Heritage has the most wins for mock trial in any school in the state of Florida,” said Schwartzreich.

The team prepared for their competitions every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 6 P.M. and met from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. on Saturdays and Sundays. At practice, the students would practice by writing out the cases together and practicing case theory, the opening and closing statements, and the direct and cross examinations.

“I am absolutely inspired by working with young men and women that are passionate about a profession, that I really love. I am a trial lawyer and to be able to get inspired and inspire these students to go into this profession that I really enjoy and to see their reactions and faces when they do very well, when they excel, there is no better feeling in the world,” coach Schwartzreich said .

Much like Coach Schwartzreich, many participating students also believe that mock trial has had a large impact on their lives.

“Mock trial is not only a way to learn about the legal profession on a much deeper level, but it also develops character as you are taught to think on your feet. The team experience is like none other, and they really become like family since so much time is spent practicing with them. We work to make each other better and boost the team as a whole,” Lugo said.

Although the team did not earn any top team or individual placing, coach Schwartzreich still notes that these students inspire him and working with them is his favorite thing to do.

Madison is a junior at American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla. This is her first year on the newspaper staff and is so excited for the many amazing things coming this school year for the Patriot Post. Madison is also a part of TASSEL and the Best Buddies club. She has a passion for photography and loves all types of music.

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