After the third round of mock trial competitions on Friday, Feb. 28, KO’s Upper School Mock Trial team secured their title as co-champions with Weston High. In its seven years, this is the farthest mock trial has advanced, coming close last year in the final four.
This year, KO was one of eight teams that traveled to Middletown Superior Court, and one of two that came out on top. The fourth and final round against Weston High had been scheduled for March 30; instead, the Legal Wyverns and Weston High were named co-champions due to the cancellation of the finals over COVID-19 concerns.
Coached by Advisor Lynn Levine along with parents Judge Matt Budzik, attorney Theresa Ravalese, and attorney Melinda Powell, KO Mock Trial has had an outstanding season despite it being cut short. Knocking out Farmington High School, Northwest Catholic, Ellington, and Conard earlier in the season, their victories over Valley Regional and Old Lyme High School were nothing new for the team, who made it to the final four last season.
Mock Trial competitions are won by the team with the most points, and both the defense and the plaintiff side have to win their respective competitions to advance to the next round. Points are decided by a lawyer who serves as the judge. “To win you win by points so if you did a better job with the evidence than the other team then you’ll win,” sophomore lawyer Patrick Schwab said.
There are three lawyers and three witnesses on each side, and competitions run just as a real trial would. “There are openings, closings, cross exams, direct exams, and each side calls three witnesses in total,” junior lawyer Co-captain Caitlin Budzik said. “Each lawyer is responsible for direct-examining a witness and cross-examining a witness.”
This year’s case, which came out in September, dealt with a single parent suing their track star son’s high school after he overdosed on steroids. The roles are all gender neutral so school’s can cast them no matter the size of their team; roles included lawyers on both sides, the track coach, the school principal, the son’s best friend, and two experts on steroids and NCAA rules respectively.
Sophomore witness Caroline Boardman played the single mother, junior Kyle Frankel was the track coach, and senior Matthew Marrattolo portrayed the son’s best friend. “Caroline, Matthew, and Kyle were the ones who really had to do the acting, which was fantastic,” Mrs. Levine, who has advised mock trial in the Middle and Upper School for eight years, said, “because they have to be that person in order to be believable and they get scored the same points as lawyers, so it matters.”
The acting skills involved making witnesses as realistic as possible, and Matthew was especially successful in the witness role. “Matthew Marratolo was amazing. He got tens everytime,” Mrs. Levine said. “He was the dead child’s best friend; he starts off really calm and as he goes on he gets more emotional. It was great.”
Seniors Aidan O’Loughlin and James Ravelese were lawyers along with Caitlin and Patrick; Patrick was a lawyer for both the plaintiff and defense in the final round. Lawyers have to memorize lengthy parts while also having the added job of thinking on their feet. “You have to memorize everything because that shows that you really know what you’re doing,” Mrs. Levine said, “so I think for some of the lawyers it’s like having another class really.”
Lawyers are also responsible for opening and closing statements. Patrick did the five minute opening speech laying out the case for the final round, and Caitlin did the closing for the plaintiff side, explaining what they proved. “Patrick Schwab–he could teach at Kingswood tomorrow–he’s just so unruffled he has such command of the facts,” Mrs. Levine said. “Same with Aidan O’Loughlin, and Caitlin, she’s amazing too.”
Many of the competing members of the team have been doing Mock Trial since middle school; Mrs. Levine said she is impressed by all the work they do, which includes writing all their lines. “Some of the kids who have been doing this since sixth-grade, they know so much so that’s really it; it’s the experience,” she said. “The kids do it all; it’s astonishing.”
Members of the Mock Trial team said competing is an interesting and fun experience that’s different each time. “I really like how you never know the argument that the other side is going to bring up,” Caitlin said, “so you really have to be able to think on your feet and come up with a good counter argument on the spot.
Patrick agreed that thinking on your feet is an important skill for Mock Trial, especially for lawyers. “Mock Trial is a great place to get used to speaking in front of audiences, work on your ability to think on your feet, and public speaking in general,” he said. “And it’s fun. It’s a good community on the team; we have great coaches.”
Caroline, who has played witnesses since eighth-grade, also enjoys the challenge of mock trial. “It’s a lot of improv acting, but every character is a little different, so I like just figuring out how that character works and when you get to the stand having to think what would this character say,” she said.
The season’s abrupt ending was disappointing for the entire team. Mrs. Levine said she was disappointed the team won’t be able to go up against Weston, but students should be equally proud of themselves for all their hard work. “[The cancellation] is a little sad but I still think it’s great that the kids have this honor,” she said. Caroline agreed that being co-champions is bittersweet. “I was really sad, I wanted to do it but at the same time, we’ve already come farther than before,” she said.
Mrs. Levine said along with the amazing work of students, the parent coaches played a great role in the team’s success. “I couldn’t have done it without the three parents who are lawyers who helped out,” she said. “They’re really important to this.”
Congratulations to KO Mock Trial on all your success!