The verdict is in, and it wasn't what the Warren Area High School mock trial team wanted to hear.
Competing in the state Regional finals on Thursday at the Beaver County Courthouse, the Warren team narrowly lost to Quigley Catholic High School, from the Pittsburgh area.
The scoring difference was a single digit on each judge's scorecard.
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Warren Area High School’s mock trial team and its advisors celebrates following its victory in Erie on Wednesday night. Front Row : James Wilson, Attorney Christin Borger, Meghan Stewart, Emmi Beuger, Abby Funari, Ellis Beardsley, Shoshanna Ochocki. Back: Brandon Nielsen, Attorney Henry Borger, Eric Zavinski, Shane Burns, Advisor Joe McClellan, Cody McGraw, Eddie Ord, Liam Boger, and Aaron Borger.
"I am really proud of everyone who performed tonight," said three-year team member Cody McGraw. "It was, by far, our best performance and I am really happy with everyone. We came out on the short end, but the experience we learned from that specific case against Quigley Catholic is something we will carry with us."
Warren advanced to the Regional level by winning the 18-team District competition. It was the first time a WAHS mock trial team had earned the title of district champion.
Warren, which entered the District competition as the number one seed, relied on a defense strategy that turned out to be stellar and a prosecution that operated with precision to secure a spot in the finals.
Members of the prosecution team were called upon in a calculated gamble and it paid off.
Having won the coin flip following the District semifinals, the students from WAHS decided to choose prosecution, rather than defense. "It's much harder because you are judged by a panel of lawyers and you have the burden of proof," said three-year team member Cody McGraw.
That burden proved to be but a small challenge as the Warren prosecution team took down the second seed Northwest Collegiate Academy's defense team to earn a spot in the Regional finals against Quigley Catholic.
"I was proud of all our hard work and just to make it this far," said Ellis Beardsley, a senior member of the team, said the conclusion of the District competition. "I thought it was our best team performance."
Eric Zavinski, who has taken on the role of attorney, started things off for the Warren team in the District finals with an excellent opening statement. Megan Stewart was credited by team members as doing a phenomenal job as a witness. "She fended off Collegiate Academy's cross-examination and had the kind of caliber performance that we need to advance to the next level," said McGraw.
Beardsley produced a redirect that would prove to be significant in the long run.
According to McGraw, the Dragons felt confident they could win the District title after Zavinski's opening statement. "After he (Zavinski) gave his opening statement, which he does without notes, the other team gave theirs, reading off a piece of paper. We realized they weren't as well prepared as we were. I thought it was a good sign and we continued to feel more and more confident as the trial went on."