Just like in basketball, a lot of kids came out for the Cole Mock Trial team this year, but only 12 students made it.
“We had a really strong turnout,” said Mock Trial coach and social studies teacher Jody Mangiaratti, “about 40 kids tried out.”
There were so many students, in fact, that Mangiaratti decided to take on more than she absolutely needed. “What I did was double the witnesses, so you would have one lawyer for two witnesses,” she explained.
Since November, the team’s been meeting several times a week, crafting questions, honing testimony. They had their first “trial” earlier this month and they came out victors, beating Bay View.
“The kids not only were really, really prepared, but they were really well mannered. They were on top of things,” said Bob Houghtaling, who is assisting the team for the first time this year.
The middle schoolers have learned a lot.
“The hardest part is when somebody asks you a question you don’t expect, to counter it, so you don’t look like an idiot,” explained eighth grader Dylan DePriest. “I’ll go through all the different scenarios and the weaknesses of the witness and see what the other team might bring up and see how I can counter it. I just think of different ways how to get out of situations they’ll put me in.”
The “season” for mock trial lasts from November into April. “At school we practice three times a week, one or two hours,” said Julian Wu, also an eighth grader. “I took an interest in mock trial last year. We had a great teacher here who helps persuade us. It’s just a really fun experience.”
The “great teacher” Wu referred to was Mangiaratti, who only took a leader position last year. When her co-teacher couldn’t do it this year, she overwhelmed.
“Suddenly I was in charge. As a teacher, there’s a real learning curve,” she said. It helped when parent Mike Donagan offered to help again. Donagan’s a lawyer. He’d volunteered last year because his daughter was doing it. This year, his daughter decided not to do Mock Trial again, but that didn’t dampen Donagan’s enthusiasm.
“He said, ‘Come on! Come on!’ He really made the difference for me. He was like, ‘Mock trial, right?’” Mangiaratti recalled. “He’s a great team player. It’s fun to be part of a team.”
To that end, the Mock Trial team does what it can to focus on being a team, complete with rivalries. Last year, they did well, but ended up losing to Moses Brown.
“We’re hoping we get a match with them again. We’d like to continue that rivalry,” said Mangiaratti. “They’re ready.”
Members of the Cole Middle School 2011-12 Mock Trial team are: Hana Soucie, Jared Maymon, Haley Essington, Luke Eller, Julian Wu, Dylan DePriest, Ben Markstone, Vincent DeCesaris, Will Primeau, Zack Johnson, Cameron Cianciolo, and Grace Miner.