Marian’s Mock Trial team, coached by Caroline Nelsen ’10, had a virtual season this year due to COVID-19. Although the season was different, the team continued to compete against other schools and worked together to get the best outcome possible. “They have really shown they want to learn and improve, and they are eager to come out on top this year,” Nelsen said about her team. The team had their first trial on Jan. 20.
The timeline of the Mock Trial season was different this year. “The season started in late October, which is unusual because normally we start in August and compete in October,” junior Malerie Birkel said. “Because of COVID-19, they pushed it back, so we started late October and our first trial was in January.”
The virtual season has created opportunities for the team to bond more, according to senior Katie Hedrick. “We are allowed a little more liberty than usual,” Hedrick said. “If the team dynamic changed at all, it was for the better because we have downtime that allows us to talk with one another.”
In normal times, the team would compete at the courthouse. This season, they came to Marian to Zoom into the trial. “We are going to split up into two classrooms so we can spread out and take off our masks. We will each use our own computer to Zoom into the trial,” Birkel said.
For the freshmen on the team, they haven’t had the experience to compete at an in-person competition. Nonetheless, the team made the best out of the situation. As an attorney on the Mock Trial team, freshman Riya Kumar has been grateful for the help of upperclassmen. “The team works incredibly well, and everyone has been so helpful since this is my first year,” Kumar said. “They’re the best to work with, and we all want what’s best for each other. We all have the same goal, and we are working hard to get there!”
At the first competition, Marian competed against Elkhorn High School. The team does not know which school they will be competing against until the actual trial begins. With many good Mock Trial teams in Omaha, it can be scary to not know exactly who you will be facing. “In my opening, I refer to their witnesses often so I need to be adaptable when using pronouns because each team will change the gender of that witness,” Birkel said. “We just prepare as much as we can and get ready to try our best!”
Although the trials were virtual, competing in one requires just as much hard work and preparation as one in person. Senior Lily Dugan was a witness on the team and had to draw conclusions from a witness statement. “It is definitely nerve racking when you’re on the stand, whether it is on Zoom or not, the whole process of not knowing the questions the other team is going to ask is kind of scary,” Dugan said.
For Mock Trial, the team doesn’t get the results of the competition right away. Last year, the team didn’t know the results until the end of the entire season. “It’s not a matter of being guilty or innocent, but how many points the team gets overall based on arguments, how the witnesses perform, objections and opening/closing statements,” Dugan said. The team is currently waiting for the regional results.
Despite the challenging aspects of this season, Nelsen has seen her team work harder than ever before. Days before the first trial, Nelsen said, “I have noticed the team is working together better and showing more drive and focus despite the difficulty of only ever meeting via Zoom.” The team meets later in the evening due to Nelsen’s busy schedule, so meeting via Zoom has been practical in this sense.
Although the team couldn’t always meet in person, the girls did as much as they could to enjoy the season. Kumar has been excited to do Mock Trial since seventh grade, and is still excited. “It’s super important to continue doing what you love even though we’re in a pandemic—while also being safe!” Kumar said.