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Taking on the world

WLHS mock trial team places ninth at NYC international competition
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West Linn High School’s senior mock trial team finished ninth place against international competition in the Empire City Mock Trial Competition last month.

Eight members of West Linn High School's mock trial teams took New York City by storm last month, placing ninth overall against international opponents at the Empire City Invitational Mock Trial Competition.

WLHS' mock trial team was one of 200 teams invited to apply to the invitational based on its past track record of success, said Matt Kellogg, team coach and world history and honors law instructor. It was one of 34 teams from throughout the United States, Canada, Ireland, England, Australia and South Korea accepted to compete, and it was the only team from Oregon that was represented.

'It (was) a chance to test ourselves against some of the best mock trial programs in the world,' Kellogg said. 'We (approached) it as an incredible learning experience.'

The team - composed of seniors Emily Axelrod, Camille Bradshaw, Carolyn Cruze, Ailish Duff, Katia Farnbach, Hannah Beth Gilbert, Tatiana Jungerman and Elena Myre - began preparing for the invitational in August, analyzing a fictional libel case they would try in real courts before working attorneys and other legal experts.

Volunteer coach attorney Tiffany Davidson also helped the team prepare and accompanied the group to New York City Oct. 20 through 23.

Through the experience, team members learned the intricacies of developing and presenting a legal argument in a public forum, Kellogg said.

'The strength of this team has been an incredible work ethic,' he said.

In the last month before the competition, the team bumped up its practice schedule, meeting every night instead of twice a week. Some practices, team member Ailish Duff said, ran between three and four hours long.

Both Duff and teammate Elena Myre said they were excited to experience New York City, meet new people and see the different approaches teams took regarding the case.

'Empire Mock Trial places a huge importance on fostering interaction and communication between schools and students, and so there (were) a lot of social events for us to talk to each other,' Myre said.

While much of their preparation involved analyzing the case from different angles and preparing for different attacks, Duff said she knew the team hadn't found them all before the competition, and she enjoyed the challenge of thinking on her feet.

'There's nothing as good for a team as having to think on your feet entirely, and that's something you can't quite do when you're just practicing as one team,' she said.

Duff and Myre agreed the competition was an invaluable experience as the team gears up for its regular season in March. Last season, the WLHS' junior mock trial team finished second of 90 in the state competition sponsored by the Classroom Law Project by a single vote.

Duff said she thought the key to the team's continuing success has been its smooth group dynamic.

'It definitely gives us a sense of polish and cohesiveness when we're in the courtroom,' she said.

Duff, who would like to eventually pursue a career in jurisprudence or international law, said that the self-confidence each member gains by participating in mock trial has helped the team succeed as a whole.

'You can have the best content in the world, but it won't mean anything if you don't present yourself well and like someone that people would want to believe,' she said.

Myre, who plans to study nursing in college, agreed.

'It helps you speak with confidence and have a presence wherever you are,' she said. 'You are presenting your case in front of well-respected judges and jury members, so respect and confidence is a high priority.

'(Mock Trial) has helped me with thinking on my feet and weaving myself out of tough situations.'

Next up for the team is a pre-season scrimmage in December.

While preparing for the Empire City competition, Myre said, the team's motto was 'take on the world.'

And, with its ninth-place finish, 'We still took on the world in New York City,' she said.