When it comes to mock trial competition, the students of The Park School are the best in Maryland. And on Wednesday, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is scheduled to reward the team with citations for their accomplishment.
The team—led by Coach Tina Forbush, assistant coach Tony Asdourian and acting instructor Preston Gaylord—defeated 130 teams from throughout the state to claim the title of Statewide High School Mock Trial Team. Judge Joseph Murphy of the Court of Appeals of Maryland presided over the final competition in Annapolis last month.
"There is raw talent here," said Forbush, who has been Park's head coach since 2000. "Quick critical thinkers, strong acting ability, extraordinary enthusiasm ... What really impressed me is how they were willing to come into this as a team.”
Kamenetz will honor team members and coaches with an executive citation at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday during a ceremony at the Historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave., in Towson.
For mock trial competitions, team members play the parts of lawyers, witnesses, defendants and plaintiffs, Forbush explained. Three lawyers and three witnesses from each of two teams compete in a mock trial by arguing against each other.
The 2010-11 Park team co-captains were Eli Block and Daniel Stern.
During the season, Block, Stern and Tanika Lynch played Park's three lawyers, and together they put in the most time and effort out of Park's team members, Forbush said.
"Eli and Daniel definitely exceed the rest by hours and hours," Forbush said.
The five main witnesses for Park were Rachel Hettleman, Laura Edelman, Jamie DeMarco, Jacob Potash and Quinn Salditch.
"I was extremely impressed with how uncomplainingly the team worked ... with what sense of trust they ended up having in each other, and how gutsy they were," Forbush said.
Stern gave an exceptional performance in his closing argument in the final championship match, Forbush said.
"The mock trial coordinator ... has said it again and again, about the 'beautiful closing argument by Daniel Stern,'" Forbush said. “His responsiveness to what the other team said during their trial, and his ability to express the law and the facts and how they relate—[and do that] clearly, cogently and quickly" were most impressive, she added.
Block's opening statement "was the best I have seen in a long time," she said.
And, when it came to Lynch's cross-examination, "her ability to listen to what the witness was saying; being incisive, and trying to get the witness to say the small things you want them to say, and get out," was impressive, Forbush said.
Stern said he was proud about the closing.
"I felt good about how we had performed,” he said. “We did well during our cross-examinations.”
During the final match, Park team members said their competitor, the Richard Montgomery High School team of Montgomery County, was "bulldogging it—being a little abrasive,” Stern said.
"So we thought we wanted to be less abrasive, more sympathetic. I think that worked pretty well, I think it humanized us as lawyers,” Stern said.
Stern, a junior at Park, has been closing for the mock trial team since he was a freshman. He is also editor-in-chief of Postscript, the school newspaper.
Block, also a junior, was the first to compete, since he gives the opening statements.
Competing in the Maryland Court of Appeals was a bit intimidating, he said.
"Everything felt bigger. We were on a webcast, the judge was much higher-ranking than other judges. It [the courtroom] was much bigger, much grander,” Block said. “But after I got into the swing of things ... you calm down and realize it's just another trial."
Block is interested in journalism, math and law, and is active with the school's theater department. He works on the tech crew, designing and building the sets, and often is on the stage as well, he said.
The team loses three of its seniors next year, including Lynch, who will attend Columbia University. Edelman will attend New York University. And DeMarco, who played a police officer during the state finals, is going to Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC.
Potash, a freshman who this season played a defense and plaintiff witness, is moving to Iowa with his family.
But the team's co-captains said they're pretty sure they'll be back on the team next year for more competition—and possibly another state title.