ESHS students compete at Mock Trial state championship
For their first year as a team, students in Eureka Springs High School's Mock Trial club consider themselves very successful. They didn't place, but the team did make it all the way to the High School Mock Trial State Championship, held Saturday, March 30, at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock.
Sophomore Mia Evans said the team didn't have much time to prepare for the regional competition, saying she was pleasantly surprised to qualify for the state championship.
"It was a lot of fun. It was stressful, and we did better than we thought we would," Evans said. "I'm really proud of the whole experience."
Junior Ethan Weems agreed.
"I thought we did how I expected," Weems said. "I just didn't expect what we did was good enough to go to state."
"It was a little rough at first, but I'm glad I did it," said freshman Vivian Thomas.
To prepare to the competition, Evans said, the team focused on reading and re-reading documents to make sure they knew as many details as possible. Senior Summer Fish said she volunteered herself to write an opening statement the night before the regional tournament, saying that was quite a bit to take on.
"The most I could do was record myself paragraph by paragraph and listen to that while I was going to sleep," Fish said.
Weems said a couple students joined the team the week of the regional tournament.
"That week, we were probably in this classroom between 50 and 60 hours, and we couldn't start memorizing until the day before," Weems said. "It was a lot of time."
Sophomore Emma Gustafson recalled her time on the witness stand, saying it's important to know your statement.
"We have a script. We memorize questions the team asks us, but you don't know the questions the other team is going to ask you," she said.
"Helping to write the script helps, because writing it helps you memorize it," Thomas said. "It is a lot of book work."
Freshman Jacob Eastburn agreed.
"I never had to memorize something as important as this," Eastburn said. "I explored different ways of memorizing it. It was really interesting to see how many hours we put into this at the end."
There's definitely a theatrical aspect to Mock Trial, freshman Mackenzie Loudermilk said.
"You really have to get into your character and take notes on their personality and the things they say, because that's what matters when you're at the tournament," Loudermilk said. "You have to be them. You can't be yourself and talk how you usually would. You have to focus."
"Getting into character is really useful," Evans said. "It's about being able to pick out the important details, rather than the stuff they throw in to throw you off. Being able to speak clearly really helps."
Fish said she worked hard to project confidence.
"Sounding confident as an attorney is a big part in this," Fish said. "I think my drama background really helped me be the best I could possibly be at the time."
Weems said he learned how to think on his feet, saying that applies to students portraying attorneys and witnesses.
"As an attorney, if they object to something you didn't expect, you have to be able to respond," Weems said. "As a witness, if they ask you something you didn't think was coming, you have to be able to answer it without contradicting something you'd already said. You really gotta think quick. Otherwise, it seems unnatural."
It's all about memorization, Thomas said.
"That helps you be more confident with what you're doing," she said.
Loudermilk said Mock Trial is helping her learn how to handle stress.
"You definitely can't cave under the pressure of being in that moment," Loudermilk said. "You have to make sure you are focused."
"Public speaking has never really scared me," Eastburn agreed, "but being on that stand, I definitely got nervous. It's about staying confident and playing your role."
All the students said they're happy they chose to join the club. For Evans, playing a role was the best part of the competition.
"It was a lot like theater for me, because I was memorizing a script and playing a character," Evans said. "I really enjoyed that, and I really enjoyed the bond we had as a team. I plan on doing this again."
Fish said she enjoyed playing an attorney, especially when it came to examining witnesses.
"I got to attack the other team's witness. I got to lead them into a trap," Fish said, "like 'This is where you went wrong in your statement, and I'm going to show it off to the judge.' That was a lot of fun."
"It's really fun to watch cross-examinations," Thomas said. "It's like a race … seeing which team can get to a certain point first and how they do it."
Eastburn said he's proud of the team's performance and hopes to get even better with practice.
"It was awesome and so enjoyable to get there and be able to put our hard work in action," Eastburn said. "It was a great bonding experience for all of us to be able to go out and compete."
The team wouldn't have been nearly as successful without help from its advisers, Evans said.
"I really appreciate Mr. Parkman and Mr. Runnersmith," Evans said. "They have dedicated a lot of time to this. They put in as much work and dedication as we did."