By Carol Lawson-Swezey
The Cougars of Clovis High School have leapt to new heights as legal eagles, winning the right to represent Fresno County at the State Mock Trial competition in Riverside March 20 to 22. This is the third consecutive year that CHS has represented the county at the state competition. In previous years, the champions were Clovis North and Buchanan high schools.
The CHS team beat Clovis North High School at the Fresno County Mock Trial competition in downtown Fresno’s federal courthouse on Feb. 6by a score of 277 to 268. The teams competed in a fictional trial called People vs. Shem, which involved the theft of a painting and centers on constitutional issues involving unlawful search and seizure.
The team has been hard at work under the guidance of faculty adviser Cynthia Huerta and volunteer coaches Hailey Bonds and Grant Mason.
“Our Clovis High Mock Trial Team is extremely excited and proud to be representing Clovis High and Clovis Unified again this year at the Mock Trial State Competition. All but two of our team members are seniors,” Huerta said. “It is an enormous opportunity for our graduating students to end their high school year with such an honor.”
“Mock trial has been apart of Clovis Unified for years” said CHS coach Hailey Bonds.
“Clovis boasts the best teams in the county when it comes to mock trial,” Bonds said.
The students regularly practice afterschool twice a week, but amp it up to four times a weekin preparation for state competition. They also scrimmage other school teams as often as possible to gain experience.
Bonds and Mason are former CHS Mock Trial participants and Fresno State graduates. Bonds is now in the teacher credential program at Fresno State and Mason is preparing to enter law school.
“The beauty of mock trial is it translates into various aspects of life and education,” Bonds said.” The ability to get up in front of an audience and argue a case renders public speaking skills that are immeasurable and so significant that it propels students to do their best in all aspects of life. Critical thinking and speaking skills bring out the best in students and helps them for college and careers.”
Bonds said the coach’s first priority is to “get the students to gain confidence and learn.”
At the county level, 14 teams started the competition in January. CHS competed in four rounds with four teams followed by a semifinal and then final round. Points are awarded at the discretion of scoring attorneys who volunteer their time.
“We lost a round to Buchanan in the third round, but because our wins were so significant in the other rounds, we were still seated in the number two spot going into semifinals and finals,” Bonds said.
“We are incredibly proud of the achievements and professionalism of our 2015 Mock Trial Team. Each student demonstrated true teamwork with their win this year,” said Donelle Kellom, CHS learning director. “Not only did they have new coaches, but did not receive support from attorney coaches. The state competition is sure to be a lasting memory for everyone involved.”
Mock Trial is definitely a team and collaborative effort, with all roles being significant.
“If one student does not pull their weight, the team will lose,” Bonds said. “Our star witnesses this season were Kiefer Nemeth, Rachel Martinez and Tracy Nguyen. Our star attorneys were Christian Henry and Matthew Walters. All students were stars in my book; however, if I had to pick the most important role in mock trial it would be the court clerk/timer. Time can make or break a round of competition.”