By Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro High School, which already holds the record for the most state mock trial championships, will compete for an unprecedented seventh title next month.
Jonesboro defeated Morrow High School in the championship round of the Clayton County Mock Trial Competition, Saturday, at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro.
Jonesboro's team, which is two years removed from the school's last national mock trial title, has 11 new members. But, the two-time national champion won this year's local competition largely due to team members becoming more confident as the contest progressed, said team member Braeden Orr.
"After each round, we had a little bit more confidence in ourselves, so, by the time we got to the championship round, we knew we could win," said Orr, 17, a senior, and the only remaining member of Jonesboro's back-to-back national championship teams.
As the local competition's winner, Jonesboro will automatically advance to the State Bar of Georgia's State Mock Trial Competition, March 13-14, in Lawrenceville. Morrow is waiting to see if it will receive a wild-card berth.
Jonesboro's team is made up of Orr; Atallah Ali; Jezreel Amica; Tyler Anthony; Brandon Cash; Callie Christian; Ayana Colbert; Mylon Craig; Alfred Crea; Breanna McKnight; Dejurnett Norrington; Oriana Patterson; Fred Rohrbach, and Rachel Rohrbach.
Morrow's team includes: Amber Bassknight; Marlo Bolles; Jasmyn Chapman; Anissa Daniles; Thomas Dien; David Galloway; Shaquan Hall; Amber Nguyen; Hang Nguyen; Sarah Omar; Elijah Porter; Ivory Showers; Tony Snow, and Ashley Storey.
Orr said that while Jonesboro entered this season without the pressure of being a defending national champion, there is always a target on the team's back, locally, because it has regularly been the Clayton County regional champion over the last 22 years. Nine years have passed since any other Clayton County team has won the local competition.
"There is a lot of pressure on us to maintain our title," he said.
Clayton County State Court Judge John Carbo, one of Jonesboro's attorney coaches, said that with so many new members on the team, team coaches did more one-on-one work with each member of the team. "We did a lot more individual work with the members of the team this year," Carbo said. "We had done so much preparation work with the team. We gave them as many difference scenarios as we could come up with, so, hopefully, this is not the first time they saw anything. They seem to all be ready to compete at state, although we're going to keep working with them."
Meanwhile, Morrow is awaiting word on its fate. Each year, the State Bar of Georgia picks a northern wild-card team, and a southern wild-card team to compete in the state contest. The wild cards are teams that were runners-up in their respective regional competitions.
Morrow, along with runners-up from this past weekend's regional contests in Brunswick, Covington, Douglasville, Macon and Savannah, are in the running for the southern wild-card slot, according to State Mock Trial Coordinator Stacey Rieke.
Morrow's lead attorney coach, Dorian Murry, said he and members of the team are anxiously awaiting word if their season will continue. "We're going to cross our fingers, and hope we get it," he said. "We may practice this week, or we may not. I'm not sure, yet."
Morrow almost had to drop out of the regional competition last week when it looked like the team would not have enough members to compete. Students on the team pulled together, though, and recruited some of their friends as last-minute additions. Team member Elijah Porter said he and his teammates are just proud of themselves for having made it to the final round of the regional competition.
"It was a really stressful week," said Porter, 16, a junior at Morrow. "But, to go from almost not having a team to making it to the final round -- that's what we've been working towards all season. It was really unexpected, but that's what makes it so great."
Jonesboro's team is one group that is pulling for Morrow to advance to the state competition. After Jonesboro was announced as the Clayton County mock trial champion, Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley, one of the team's attorney coaches, went up to each member of Morrow's team and offered a few words of encouragement.
"Keep your heads up, guys, there is still the wild card, and I'll be praying that you guys get it," Mosley told Morrow's team members.