On Feb. 26 at the Connecticut State Supreme Court, the Trumbull High School Mock Trial accomplished a feat that has happened only once before in the history of the 38-year state competition — they repeated as State Champions.
Mock Trial is an academic competition that pits high school students against one another inside a courtroom, playing out a legal drama. The Connecticut Mock Trial Program started in 1976 and includes over 50 high schools annually. In front of three presiding Connecticut Supreme Court Justices, the Trumbull Mock Trial Team became the first team to win back-to-back championships in 31 years when they beat rival Weston High School.
“I can’t emphasize how unbelievable these kids were,” said Eric August, a Trumbull High School Teacher and the team’s head coach. “Weston is a tough opponent and I knew we would have to be at our best to win. We were.”
“When they announced that we had won, it was an incredible feeling,” he said. “Winning one state championship is difficult enough, but back-to-back is unbelievable.”
Mock trial is an extracurricular academic competition that high schools, universities and law schools world-wide to educate students about a country’s legal system. This year’s case was about a train crash the resulted in the death of a 17 year-old boy. The students in the competition were tasked with preparing cases for both the plaintiff side and the defense side. After analyzing the case, students prepare direct and cross examinations of character and expert witnesses, prepare evidentiary arguments and develop opening and closing statestatements. Additionally, students who play the witness roles must be prepared take on a myriad of different characters. This year’s case involved a grieving parent, an eye-witness best friend, as well as a train engineer and an 18-year veteran of the National Transportation and Safety Administration who served as the cases only true expert.
Back-to-back championships do not come without a price to pay.
“I have never worked harder for anything else in my life,” said Gabby Buttress, one of the team’s senior members. “As a team we spent nearly two hours a day preparing, sometimes even more.”
The hard worked paid off for Trumbull and also for Buttress, who was awarded the Most Outstanding Mocker Award by Senior Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court Christine Vertefeuille.
The Trumbull High School team is made up of six seniors and three juniors.
“Me and my teammates have a bond that a lot of other teams don’t have,” Senior Ashley Hallstrom said. “We may butt heads every once in a while but we are always there for each other when we need to be. I wouldn’t have wanted to win a state championship with any other team.”
August praised the team Captain Dante Esposito.
“Dante is one of those students who is not going to accept anything less than people’s best.,” August said. “He is a born leader and a student who comes along only once in a great while. I must admit, I am glad that Dante is only a junior, I have the luxury of having him for one more year.”
Esposito praised their advisor for building the team into state championship contenders.
The team now moves onto the National Championship to be held in Madison, Wisconsin from May 8 through the 11. Trumbull is poised to improve on last year’s performance.
“We finished 27th last year and that did not sit well with many of us in the program,” said August. “Yes. it was the best finish by a Connecticut team ever but that is not who we are. We want better and I have no doubts that we are going to do better because we are going there with a little more experience and a little more fire.”
The team members are Mark Ambrose, Gabby Buttress, Christian DeGenova, Captain Dante Esposito, Ashley Hallstrom, Jayla Perez, Cameron Perrelli, Ross Pellenberg and Anneliese Segarra.