By Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro High School cleared its first hurdle Saturday in its quest for a third, consecutive, national mock trial championship by winning the Clayton County Regional Mock Trial competition at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro.
The team defeated North Clayton High School. It automatically qualifies for the state competition, which will be held March 14 and 15, at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville. Jonesboro team members and coaches plan to spend the next month addressing problem areas, and getting ready for the statewide competition.
"This is our [the seniors on the team] last chance to win a state championship, or a national championship," Jonesboro team member Joe Strickland said. "These next five weeks will determine who is going to defend our national championship. It will decide whether we defend it, or if someone else has to defend it for us."
Jonesboro has won six state championships, more than any other school in Georgia. The school is also tied for the most national championships won by a single school, with two championships, in 2007 and 2008.
But, team members have to put those championships behind them for now.
Several team members and coaches said they felt the team did well at the regional competition, but added that they need to show improvement over the next month.
Bridget Harris, an attorney for Jonesboro's team, said she did not yet think the team was good enough to win a seventh state championship. Jonesboro and North Clayton squared off in two courtrooms during the championship round of the regional competition. Jonesboro's plaintiff team faced North Clayton's defense team in one courtroom, while their counterparts were in another courtroom.
In the courtroom where Jonesboro's plaintiffs faced North Clayton's defense, attorneys from both sides frequently argued over objections, and evidence.
"We need to know all of our objections, our responses, and witness statements backward and forward, if we want to win the state competition this year," Harris said after the competition.
Clayton County State Court Judge John Carbo, one of Jonesboro's attorney coaches, said his team needs to learn how to react to arguments they do not hear on a daily basis at practice.
Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield, one of Jonesboro's attorney coaches, said the coaches have already made team members take off their 2008 national championship rings to get their
mind focused on upcoming competitions. The youths are not allowed to put the rings back on until after the season is over.
Jonesboro team members include: Harris; Strickland; Brian Bady; Caroline Callaway; Dominique Delgado; Jayda Hazell; Kristi Hicks; Jurod James; Keenan Kelly; Tabias Kelly; Adrienne Marshall; Braeden Orr; Oriana Patterson; Fred Rohrbach, and Courtney Smith. North Clayton's team is made up of: Blackburn; Josh Adams; Kiara Boone; Kadeem Forbes; Nateya Hamilton; Devin Hunter; Brittany Islam; Alannah Jackson; Miriam Johnson; Maryum Rabia; Xavier Smith; Savon Thomas; Destiny Williams, and Sameera Yusuf.
Although the team lost Saturday, North Clayton's season may not be over, as region teams are eligible for one of two "wild card" slots. The wild card teams will be picked after the remaining regional competitions are held Feb. 13 and 14.
One wild card will be for a regional runner-up in the northern half of the state, while the other will be for a team from a southern region.
The wild cards teams will be randomly drawn.
North Clayton teacher-coach Charlton Norah said the next few weeks will be "nerve wracking," as he and his students wait to find out if they earned a wild card slot.
"It'll be like the BCS [Bowl Championship Series] bowls, where you keep wondering 'Are we going to make it or not?'" Norah said. The national mock trial competition will be held May 6-10 at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta.