Art teacher Andy Cunningham examines one of the two paintings used in the Mock Trial competition to give tips to coach Ilja Cvetich and attorney Emma Belliveau.

Double Jeopardy: Mock Trial places fourth in county

For the second year in a row, the Mock Trial team placed fourth of 20 competitors in the county.

The Cavs defeated St. Francis High School, Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep Charter High School, Sheldon High School and Laguna Creek High School.

Their most decisive victory was against Laguna Creek, when they received 57 percent of the points.

During the first four rounds of competition (the results of which determine the top eight teams for quarterfinals), Country Day was 3-1, losing to only Elk Grove High School’s gold team.

Since SCDS was ranked in the top eight after the first four rounds, they progressed to the quarterfinals, defeating Sheldon High School.

“I thought our best performance was in the quarterfinals against Sheldon,” coach Wayne Strumpfer said. “Everything seemed to click, and our attorneys were very active and in the moment. Our witnesses hit their marks consistently.”

After defeating Sheldon in quarterfinals, the team was defeated by Elk Grove’s blue team (which eventually placed first in the county) in semifinals.

This was the closest trial the team had, receiving 49.2 percent of the points, for a final score of 310-320. Despite the loss, junior Emma Belliveau, an attorney, said that the semifinal round was the team’s strongest.

“I think (our strongest trial was) when we went against Elk Grove in the semifinal round because (senior George Cvetich) was on fire, and he objected a lot and would argue them so well. The judges really liked that,” Belliveau said.

As Elk Grove has placed in the top two in the county for many years, their reputation aids them in competition.

“Elk Grove has been so good for so long,” Strumpfer said. “They have a certain confidence about them and a certain edge with veteran scoring judges. We hope to change that in the years to come.”

Because they had lost in semifinals, Country Day went up against Kaleo Home School in a consolation round, competing for third place.

And for the second year in a row, the team lost to Kaleo.

The attorneys attributed the loss to Country Day coming across as more aggressive than the opposing team.

“Kaleo’s team is very sweet and nice, so it’s hard to be harsh with them,” junior attorney Emma Brown said.

“Last year (Country Day) girl attorneys were harsh, so it made (us) look really mean, so we had to be nicer this year. But we aren’t as good when we are more calm.”

Although Belliveau said that the team did fine this year, team members say there is room for improvement.

“Given that we had a new coach (Strumpfer), I’d say we did pretty well,” Belliveau said. “We had a lot of talent on our team. If we spent more time capitalizing on (the talent on our team) and the judges knew how much time we spent on it, we could have done a lot better.”

Both Cvetich and Belliveau said that the team would have made it further in the competition if they’d worked more on objections.

“We had to improve our objections and arguing with objections,” Cvetich said. Belliveau said the team needed to improve on not thinking they were going to get overruled by the judge or that the other team might have a response to their objections.

Also the team could have improved on being more in the moment and being confident, she added.

Strumpfer agrees. “I think our biggest weakness is with making and responding to objections,” he said. “That will be a focus of ours next year.”

Although lacking in objections and in-the-moment responses, the team’s witnesses and presentation skills were assets.

“Our witnesses (juniors Akilan Murugesan and Max Schmitz and sophomores Shriya Nadgauda, Zane Jakobs, Jaelan Trapp and Arvind Krishnan) did a good job,” Belliveau said. “They knew their stuff and could put on a character without being over the top.”

Strumpfer agrees with Belliveau. “Our team had very good witnesses, solid cross-examination skills, excellent opening statements and closing arguments,” he said. “We also excelled in the pre-trial argument. We received many compliments from the scoring judges in these areas.”

Country Day spoke loudly, clearly and confidently, according to Cvetich.

One of the major changes the team made this year was scrimmaging a lot more schools.

“These scrimmages helped us because we got to practice the actual trials a lot,” junior attorney Emma Brown said. “This was really helpful because we just do the same trial over and over again and sometimes we would switch roles.”

Teams like Rio and Elk Grove have an advantage because they practice four to five times a week and scrimmage the best teams around the state, according to Strumpfer.

“This year, we did more of that, and I felt it made a difference,” Strumpfer said.

“Things we learned from Mt. Tamalpais High School, Shasta High School and others helped our scores in the competition.”

Following the consolation round, the team attended an award ceremony, where Country Day received awards in a wide range of categories.

Cvetich and Belliveau both won attorney awards. Murugesan, who played the defendant, won a witness award. Seniors Aishwarya Nadgauda and Grant Miner won pre-trial awards. Krishnan won a bailiff award.

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

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