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Jonesboro mock trial team braces for 'state'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

After weeks of focused practices, several members of the mostly novice Jonesboro High School mock trial team say they will be a little nervous -- but still fearless -- heading into the Georgia Mock Trial Competition this weekend.

Jonesboro, which has won more state championships (six) than any other school in Georgia, entered this year's mock trial season with 11 new members on its 15-person team. Even so, several team members said they have their hopes set on winning an unprecedented seventh state championship this weekend.

"We've gotten to the point where we're down to correcting the small things," said senior Braeden Orr, 17, the only member with four years of experience on the team. "We've got the big idea. Now, we're getting the small things in place to do well at state."

The Georgia Mock Trial Competition will take place on Saturday and Sunday, at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive, in Lawrenceville. Competition will last from 9 a.m., to 4 p.m., on Saturday. On Sunday, the semifinals will begin at 9:30 a.m., with the state championship round scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.

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.

The team's coaches are Jonesboro teachers Anna and Andrew Cox; Clayton County State Court Judge John Carbo; Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield; Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley, and Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers.

While Jonesboro has won its fair share of state titles, and a couple of national titles, in the past, there are schools that team members, throughout the years, have viewed as top competition at the state event. Some of the names regularly brought up are defending state champion Grady High School, in Atlanta, and Central High School, in Macon.

Central High School beat out Jonesboro in the second round of last year's state competition to earn a spot in the semi-finals.

Ali has already drawn a bead on Grady, however, a school Jonesboro beat in the state finals three consecutive years, from 2006 to 2008. "I've been hearing a lot about Grady, so that's the team I want to face off against at some point in the competition," she said. "We'll go hard either way, against whoever we face, but Grady is the team I want to compete against."

Senior Fred Rohrbach, 17, one of four returning members from last year's team, said competing at the state competition is never easy, and newcomers to the team will have to raise their expectations from what they saw at last month's Clayton County Mock Trial Competition. "At state, the teams are a little more polished than the teams you face in the regional competition," he said.

Jonesboro has been practicing heavily since early February, with practices being held three times a week, for three hours at a time. Carbo said he and the team's other coaches have been trying to get the students ready for any possibility. "We've thrown every scenario we can think of at the kids," he said.

Anna Cox said the team has the ability to win a state championship, but the likelihood of that happening comes down to whether team members believe in themselves. "If they are confident in their abilities, they'll do well," she said.

Confidence is something that team members said they found increasing quantities of as they went through each round of the Clayton County Mock Trial Competition last month. "Everything got better with each round," Ali said. "We got more confident in what we were doing."

Team members all said the same thing, however -- they are in this competition to win a state title, and, maybe, a third national title. "We were 70 percent ready for state when we won the regional competition, and now, I think we're 99.8 percent ready," Fred Rohrbach said.

"We've definitely improved since the regional competition, and I think we definitely have a shot at winning the state title," said freshman Kelly Christian, 14.

"I believe that we not only have a shot at making the championship round, but we can win state, and go to nationals," Orr said.

"Hopefully, we're going to show the other teams that, like Michael Jackson, we're bad," added Ali.

The state champion will advance to the National Mock Trial Competition, which will be held May 5-9, in Philadelphia, Pa.