2022 Mock Trial State Finalist Huntington HS Team Wins Region VIII Championship
The Huntington High School Blue Devils beat out the Northport High School team, winning the Region VIII championship in the New York State Bar Association’s Mock Trial Competition. The team moves on to compete in the state semifinals in Albany May 21-23. This is Huntington’s third trip to the state finals in as many years, last year bringing home the runner-up honors.
Following their trip to the finals in 2022, the coaches and the students prepared for a rebuilding year this year. The Blue Devils lost five graduating seniors who played pivotal roles as attorneys and witnesses in past seasons. Four-year mock trial veteran Angie Hernandez-Ramos worked quickly to get new team members up to speed.
“We had to really scramble to put together a strong attorney team with an understanding of the law, the way that it applies to the case. We had to teach them all those nuances of thinking on their feet, and really adapt to opposing counsel and the judge,” she said. “Even with last year’s success, we still consider this year to be an underdog year. We had to start from a really low level” to build up the team.
Brian Ousten is a first-year teacher at Huntington and is a past NYSBA Mock Trial State champion. He says mentoring this team is rewarding and rejuvenated his love for mock trial.
“The fact that we are sitting here where we are right now, with five starters who have never even participated in mock trial before going into a state championship, the future of this team is so bright,” he said.
The Killer Ps
If you want insight into this team’s strategy, members will tell you it’s all about the Killer P’s: poise, professionalism, performance and practice. Hernandez-Ramos identifies them as the team’s core values. “They are a legacy that has been passed down from past generations of mock trial. They are our mantle that we have to uphold through the teams of each year,“ she says.
“I definitely used the killer p’s this season. It helps me remember how I should act in a courtroom,” says Vincenza Garafalo.
Practicing Attorney Well-Being – in High School
Following the regional win, the team made a conscious effort to take a break to rest and recuperate before preparing for the state competition. First-year member Elizabeth James says the break has allowed her to reconnect with her own needs and her family.
“I think taking a break is really important. I’ve been living in the mock trial universe for so long now, it’s nice to have a break and to be able to see my family after being with my mock trial team family for so many long hours.”
Vincenza Garafalo agrees,” I think a break is very well deserved for us. We have worked so hard and I think it’s important to have a clearer mind for states.”
History teacher Suzi Biagi is a long-time mock trial coach at Huntington and is seen as the “mother hen” of the team. She says the school and community support of the team is vital to its success.
Biagi says the team’s legal coach, Xavier Palacio, is flexible, making time for the team around busy school, work and sports schedules.
“He turned himself inside out and made himself available for when the kids are,” she said. “There’s a lot of love in the community for the kids to succeed, especially now because of everything they went through with Covid.”