Apple Valley High School mock trial team

ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – A team of Apple Valley High School students argued their way to first place at the Minnesota high school mock trial state tournament March 1 at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth. The win qualified Apple Valley for a trip to the national tournament, which will be held May 15-18 in Athens, Ga.

This is Apple Valley’s first state title in the 33-year history of the mock trial program in Minnesota, which is sponsored by the Minnesota State Bar Association. Eastview High School also qualified to participate in the state tournament. In addition to the team title, Apple Valley’s Ben Orzolek was selected as an All-State Attorney and Karl Vanhorsen was named an All-State Witness.

Other members of the state championship team are Amanda Jackson, Camryn Peck, Diana Bender, Elise Gort, M. Justin Niska and Nicholas Pederson. Students who served as alternates for Apple Valley at the state tournament are Noah Becker, Maya Gort, Sam Hubley, Bobby Smith, Paige Peterson, Terry Krueger and Gonzalo Palacios. The team is coached by Eric Strauss, a 2006 graduate of Apple Valley who participated in mock trial as a student.

“I have been working with many of these students for the past four years,” Strauss said. “It was an absolute joy to watch all their hard work and dedication culminate in a near-perfect performance at the state championship.”

In mock trail, each team consists of three attorneys and three witnesses, and must be prepared to argue both sides of the case. Apple Valley argued the defense in its championship match against Breck High School. The teams give opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations and closing arguments. Students must also know a simplified version of the Federal Rules of Evidence in order to make and respond to objections. The competitions are judged by practicing attorneys and judges, who award points for each part of the mock trial.

All teams receive the same case, which is used throughout the season. Strauss said this year’s case, a civil trial involving defamation of character, consisted of about 60 pages of materials, including six witness statements and seven exhibits. Apple Valley will need to learn and practice a new case for the national tournament. They will receive the case on April 1 and will have six weeks to prepare for the national tournament.

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