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JHS Mock Trial Team gets record win, heads to nationals

Teacher coaches Andrew and Anna Cox with 14 of the 15-member Jonesboro High School Mock Trial Team. The team holds the record in Georgia for the most state titles and will head to Wisconsin in May for nationals. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

Teacher coaches Andrew and Anna Cox with 14 of the 15-member Jonesboro High School Mock Trial Team. The team holds the record in Georgia for the most state titles and will head to Wisconsin in May for nationals. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

JONESBORO — The kids brought it back to Clayton County and now Jonesboro High School holds the record in Georgia for the most Mock Trial state championships.

The team took home a record seventh state title after competition in Lawrenceville Saturday. The team will now head to Wisconsin in May for nationals to possibly become the only team in the country with three such titles.

Attorney coaches Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley and Clayton County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Powers said they were thrilled with the team’s performances. When Powers was a Jonesboro High School student, she was a member of the 2002 state championship team and has since helped coach subsequent teams to state and national championships.

“I am so proud of the kids and the dedication and drive that they have demonstrated since July,” said Powers. “This is a special group of students. I can’t wait until they are able to show the rest of the nation in May.”

Mosley shared that pride.

“I’m just so proud of the kids,” said Mosley. “It felt good to see tears of victory instead of tears of loss. My heart overflows with pride and joy.”

The other attorney coaches are State Court Chief Judge John Carbo and Judge Linda Cowen. State Court staffer Cory Henry joined the coaches’ team this year.

Andrew and Anna Cox are teacher coaches who interact with the kids at Jonesboro High School.

“The competition this year was tough,” said Anna Cox. “The ‘attorneys’ were set apart by their knowledge of the rules and complete unflappability.”

Six of the 15 members won awards for outstanding performances during Saturday’s competition, including multiple recognitions for students portraying witnesses.

“What separated us from the other teams was definitely witness performances,” said Andrew Cox. “We’re not saying the other teams weren’t equally good but ours were distinctive, each and every one.”

A Georgia team has captured the national title only four times — Jonesboro got it twice, in back to back victories in 2007 and 2008. The other wins were by two separate schools. The stats are not lost on opposing teams.

“There’s a hush that falls when we walk into the room,” said Kiara Scott. “Because of our reputation.”

Scott, 18, won two awards for Outstanding Witness.

But the negative publicity that plagues Clayton County as crime-ridden, poverty-stricken and fraught with political in-fighting also follows the students. Winning the state title on the heels of the school’s boys basketball team clinching the state championship is a double victory for the county, said mock trial team member Kennedy Jones, 16.

Jones took home the award for Outstanding Attorney in the final round from the team and in the third round from evaluators.

“We’re put in a bad light sometimes and this is such a good program,” said Jones. “We’re often looked down on as being ‘kids from the southside’ or ‘kids from Clayton County, the not-so-good side of the tracks.’ We’re doing something positive to put Clayton County in a good light.”

Several team members said strangers approached them in the days leading to Saturday’s competition and asked if they were members of the Mock Trial Team.

“They told us, ‘You have to bring it (the state title) back to Clayton County,’” said Jones.

Erin Toole said the team has passion. Toole, 17, was recognized twice for outstanding performances by the other team and as Outstanding Witness by evaluators.

“It’s something that drives us,” she said. “Each of us has our own reason and drive to win this, whether you’ve done it for four years and want to leave out on a national win or if you are a newbie just coming in.”

Samantha Hightower, 16, also won awards for Outstanding Attorney in the final round from the team and in the third round from evaluators. Xavier Jacobs, 16, took home Outstanding Witness in the second round. Larissa Richey, 17, was recognized as Outstanding Witness from evaluators in the second round and took the team award in the first round.

Other team members are Treboris Brow, Taylah Cash, Amirah Smith, Kaitlyn Harmon, Deven Harmon, Altin Kearson, Arly Zelaya, James Gossett and Jessica Cao.

Brown said the team appreciates the support from the entire community and the time given by their coaches, most recently from Henry, a former Mock Trial Team member. To motivate the team, Henry gathers them in a circle with their hands joined in the middle and chants, “One team, one dream, Jonesboro.”

However, for Saturday’s event, he changed “Jonesboro” to “Champions.” Andrew Cox said the kids deserved the inspirational cheer and earned the championship. He, the other coaches and students are confident about their chances at nationals.

“They are too good a team to lose to a lesser team,” he said.

Six of the 15 members aspire to become attorneys.