Best Witness and Lawyer award winners (from left): Riley Geyer, Lalia Williams-Riseng, Lily Fordu, Ella Calleri, Audrey Stahl (front), Julia Szentkiralyi, Marisa Campbell and Sofi Dunay.
The team outside the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education in Columbus.
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The Harding Mock Trial team took top honors at the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education Middle School Mock Trial State Showcase on April 17 as the team of seventh- and eighth-graders swept all the awards in its four trials. Two of the four trial teams earned the highest rating of “Superior” and the other two earned the second-highest “Outstanding” rating.
More than 300 middle school students from 24 schools, some dressed as pigs and other farm animals, descended on the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center for the state showcase, which this year was based on the novel “Animal Farm.” This year’s case was a civil class action lawsuit brought by Benjamin on behalf of the non-pig animals that live on the farm that their civil rights were violated.
The Harding group was made up of four trial teams, comprised of two attorneys and four witnesses. Each grade had a prosecuting team and a defense team. Those who competed in Columbus were selected from among their classmates after a mock trial playoff at school in March.
The atmosphere in the courtrooms was intense as the attorneys gave their opening statements, questioned witnesses, offered objections, performed cross examinations and read closing statements. No verdicts are given at the end of the trial, however at each trial an Outstanding Witness and Outstanding Attorney award is given. Harding won eight of a possible eight of these awards.
Winning Outstanding Attorney awards were eighth-graders Ella Calleri and Marisa Campbell and seventh-graders Sofi Dunay and Julia Szentkiralyi. Outstanding Witness awards were won by eighth-graders Riley Geyer and Lalia Williams-Rieseng and seventh-graders Lily Fordu and Audrey Stahl.
Also participating as part of the trial teams were eighth-graders Abby Allio, Dean Danckaert, Riley Geyer, Erin Kelly, Finn Potter, Sarah Yonkers and Nina Zanghi and seventh-graders Grace Heidorf, McKenzie Roe, Ivy Rook, Laura Shields, Sydney Wilhelmy and Jack Wynn.
Attorneys and judges served as competition judges, giving students points for professional demeanor, oratory skills and an understanding of trial technique and courtroom procedure.
"We are incredibly proud of all of our students and their impressive performance,” Pangrace said. “They worked very hard, were well prepared, and demonstrated remarkable poise and expertise in the courtroom. The seventh-graders cannot wait to hear what novel will be the focus of next year's trial!"
During the team’s preparation for the showcase, local attorneys coached the students along with advisers Ruth Pangrace and Pam Sheils. Judges from the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas and local attorneys also served as judges during the mock trial playoffs at Harding. The team members then met three times a week after school for over a month to prepare for competition. Looks like the hard work paid off.