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Jonesboro begins mock trial championship journey

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

After Jonesboro High School's mock trial team won its first national championship in 2007, it caused some giddy moments of notoriety for the team members. There were some formal presentations recognizing their accomplishments.

When Jonesboro won its second national title this year, fame quickly followed. The presentations continued, but there was also a parade in the team's honor.

Now, there is no way to escape the spotlight the team has created for itself.

"When we won our first national championship, people knew OF us," said Jurod James, 17, a senior at Jonesboro, and member of both national title teams. "When we won the second national championship, people KNEW us."

Jonesboro begins its journey toward a third national title on Tuesday afternoon when the school's Judicial Club holds its first meeting. Judicial Club is the precursor to the mock trial team. It is where the team members learn law, and how to win legal cases. It only lasts until the end of November, which is when tryouts are held for the mock trial team.

This year, Jonesboro is faced with having to make a lot of history enroute to a national title. No school has ever won four consecutive state titles in Georgia Mock Trial Competition. No team has ever won three consecutive national titles, either. Also, the 2009 competition will be in Atlanta, and no school in national championship history has ever won a national title in its home state.

So, there is a bit more pressure on the shoulders of Jonesboro, which has also won more state championships (six) than any other Georgia school.

"It actually makes it more exciting," said Dominique Delgado, 16, a senior at Jonesboro who was also on last year's team. Her older sister, Kayla, was a member of the national championship team in 2007. "I look at it as 'Oooh, we get to break more records.'"

Jayda Hazell said there will be schools in Georgia looking to knock Jonesboro off its national perch --particularly the school's arch rival, Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta. Grady and Jonesboro have squared off in the state finals in the last few years, and only the winner is able to compete for national titles.

"If you had been so close to a couple of state titles only to come up short each time, you'd be a little motivated to get some pay back," Hazell said. "Grady is actually a great school to face in the finals, though. They are really good, so it's like a little preview of the national competition."

Anna Cox, one of the faculty coaches for the mock trial team and a sponsor for the Judicial Club, said the team is in good shape to repeat it's success of the last two years. There are nine students returning from last year's team, and Judicial Club sponsors are hopeful the new members will be good fits for the team.

"I don't think it will be any different from previous years ... We'll still be looking for new voices," said Cox.

One of those new voices might belong to Fred Rohrbach, 16, a junior at Jonesboro, who was recruited by Cox last spring when he was in Cox's Latin class. Rohrbach has dreams of someday becoming a lawyer, and he feels Judicial Club and mock trial will be a good place to start. As a freshman, he did not know about the Judicial Club. As a sophomore, he was on the football team and did not have the time.

Now, the back-to-back national champions has raised his awareness of mock trial, and Rohrbach's schedule has opened up, so he is free to seek a spot on the team.

"I wanted to be a part of something that is going somewhere," Rohrbach said. "It's not as recognized as it should be. This team has accomplished a lot over the years, and it takes a lot of hard work to do what these guys do."