Junior Emma Brown practices her defense opening statement for competition. “Evan was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” is one of her main arguments.

New Mock Trial coach adds more scrimmages to schedule

The Mock Trial team has scrimmaged schools such as Redwood High School in Tulare in preparation for the season with new coach Wayne Strumpfer, who replaced former coach Jeanine Boyers this year.

When not coaching Mock Trial, Strumpfer is the chief counsel and legislative director of the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

Strumpfer has taken a new approach to coaching the team by having more scrimmages against schools in other counties.

“By scrimmaging the top teams, such as Mt. Tamalpais in Marin, the students are able to improve their strategies in competition,” he said.

Not all team members are sure about the new approach.

Senior Grant Miner, who has been on the team for four years, said that they don’t get enough practice together due to the increased number of scrimmages.

“We’re not doing as well as we did at this point last year,” he said.

“We haven’t been able to get together as much to work together as a team.”

Junior Emma Belliveau, who has been a member of Mock Trial for three years, agrees.

“We don’t have class as much as we usually do because (Strumpfer) doesn’t think we should meet the week we have a scrimmage,” she said.

However, senior Aishwarya Nadgauda, who has been on the team for four years, said she likes the scrimmages since they give the team a chance to see how other schools approach the case.

Despite the seven scrimmages, Nadgauda said that the most important work will come in the weeks between the final scrimmage and the first round of competition.

“We still have to apply all the new strategies we learned in the scrimmages,” she said.

“We got good ideas for cross-examinations from other schools.”

The case for the state competition concerns a possible art theft.

Evan Shem, an unpaid docent (junior Akilan Murugesan, when the team is the defense), works as an intern for a rich man (junior Max Schmitz), who has an art gallery in his home. After a Fourth of July party, the rich man notices that something is off about his favorite painting (an abstract piece titled “Treason”).

When the man gets a call from an auction house inquiring about the painting’s value, he calls the police to report that it has been replaced.

Shem is arrested when a policeman (Murugesan, when the team is the prosecution) finds what appears to be the painting in his apartment.

Sophomores Zane Jakobs and Arvind Krishnan are art authentication experts who help identify the painting.

Working with the case has been hard, Belliveau said, because she thinks that Strumpfer is still learning how to coach a Mock Trial team.

“Even though he’s judged and scored teams before, he still needs to find his stride as a coach,” she said. “He thinks more about the real world of trial rather than the Mock Trial world.”

Nonetheless, Strumpfer says he’s happy with the team’s progress.

“They seem to be adjusting fine (to the change in coaching),” he said.

However, he said that he doesn’t know how the team will fare if they go to semifinals. He noted that the teams from Elk Grove and Rio Americano High Schools practice every day, whereas the SCDS team practices for only two hours on Sundays.

“We certainly have the talent and skill to compete with the best teams,” Strumpfer said.

The team won its first round of competition on Feb. 12 against St. Francis High School. 

Previously published in the print edition on Feb. 17, 2015.

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