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BHS mock trial team ready to compete at state

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Brainerd High School (BHS) Mock Trial students are fine-tuning their courtroom skills, getting ready to fight for their case in the upcoming state competition.

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Brainerd will compete Tuesday and Wednesday — during spring break — in the Minnesota High School Mock Trial Program’s state competition in Duluth.

Twelve high school teams will compete at state and include Brainerd, Pequot Lakes, Buffalo, St. Michael-Albertville, Lakeview, St. Peter, Northfield, Nova Classical Academy, Stillwater Area, Lakeville North, Lakeville South and Breck.

BHS Mock Trial Coach Jan Carlson said this is the first year in Brainerd mock trial history that the team has qualified for state back-to-back. Last year the team took 12th place and this year, Carlson hopes the team will finish in fifth or sixth place.

Brainerd’s team members going to state are Molly Abrahamson, Caleb Christensen, Megan Franzen, Ashlee Hauble, Maya Hermerding, Yuki Hirai, Jake Norr, Miriam Pritschet, Leah Rathe, Keaton Riley and Camryn Schmidt.

Carlson and Crow Wing County Assistant Attorneys David Hermerding and Ilissa Ramm coach the team. The team is heading into state with only one loss to its record.

The mock trial case is about the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. Students compete both sides of the case: The defendant, Sleeping Giant Shipping, Inc., and the plaintiff, Gale Storm, who brought the mock lawsuit against the company, because her son, who was a student intern on the ship, was killed when the ship sank.

The company is being accused of being negligent and they say they weren’t. Students must argue points, such as why the ship sank and if it was the company’s fault. This case is based on the story of the real ship sinking, but some things were made up for the case, such as the company being responsible for the sinking of the ship.

Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said the attorney’s office and the high school have a good partnership with the mock trial team. Hermerding and Ramm teach the students about law and the students see first-hand what a lawyer does in a courtroom.

Ramm has helped the mock trial team for four seasons. She has enjoyed watching the students grow from the ones who started with the program when she did. She said it’s nice to see their progress and the concepts they’ve picked up over the years.

Ramm said judges score students on their skills from one to 10 and this year a number of the lawyers and witnesses on the Brainerd team scored a perfect 10.

Hermerding has been involved for three years and his daughter, Maya, is a senior on the team this year. He has enjoyed watching the students learn the legal process this season.

Hermerding enjoys working one-on-one with the students and seeing them improve. This season, he worked with a student on a closing argument and they had to cut things out to make it shorter and in the end the student scored a perfect 10.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Hermerding.

Yuki Hirai, a junior on the team, has been involved with the mock trial team for three years. He plays a lawyer. Hirai decided to join because his friends were joining. He said he likes working as a team.

Hirai said he has learned basic law skills and it has helped him to debate issues.

BHS senior Leah Rathe started mock trial last year. She plays a witness. Rathe said some of the witnesses will have to play both sides of the case. She has been practicing this week on playing a witness for both sides so she is prepared at state.

Rathe said the best part about being in mock trial is learning about the law system. She said the skills she learned in mock trial will help her in college.

When asked if she plans to go to school to be a lawyer, she said, “No ... I don’t know.”

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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