Middle Township High School Mock Trial Team headed to state semifinals

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MTHS Mock Trial Team The Middle Township High School Mock Trial Team at the regional semi-final competition on Feb. 6 at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Standing, from left, are Lauren Anderson, Rob Cline, Dillon Keller, Morgon Goranson, Dylan Rhile, Victoria Shappell, Nick Stella, Gabby Giuliano, Casie Salvadore, Austin Hentges, Rose Frye. Sitting, from left, are James Mallia, Nina Ranalli, Joe Towns, Martina Trapani, Samantha Burkholder. NEW BRUNSWICK — The Middle Township High School Mock Trial Team has secured a spot in the state semi-finals next month, thanks to a win on Wednesday, making the team one of three regional champions in the 32nd annual Vincent J. Apruzzese Mock Trial Competition.

“I couldn't be prouder of my team,” said Martina Trapani, one of the team's coaches and a teacher at the high school. “It's a very young team, and they flourished in the courtroom.”

This week, six county winners - two each from high schools in the southern, central and northern regions of the state - competed for their respective regional championships at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. The competition is sponsored in cooperation with the New Jersey State Bar Foundation.

The Middle Township defensive team argued a fictitious criminal case in which a car with siblings Sid and Cathy Sawyer crashes into a tree, resulting in Cathy's death. The question of vehicular homicide and related charges are the substance of the State v. Sid Sawyer.

For South Jersey region, Middle Township High School's defense team defeated Cherry Hill West High School, Camden County. In Central Jersey, Mount St. Mary Academy, Somerset County, lost against Noor-Ul-Iman School, Middlesex County. For North Jersey, West Morris Mendham High School, Morris County won over Newark Academy, Essex County.

The three winning teams are now headed to the state semi-finals on March 19.

Trapani said that each mock trial team has 14 student members: five on defense, five on prosecution and four on the jury. Teams do not know which side of the case they’ll argue until they reach the trial and must be prepared to both prosecute and defend the case.

Almost 230 teams statewide have taken part in this year’s competition.

“We got the case on Sept. 30,” Trapani said. “We picked the defensive and prosecution teams in October and began practicing.”

In February, Middle Township competed for the chance to vie for the regional title, Trapani said.

“We had to win two trials,” Trapani said. “We beat Salem and Gloucester counties.”

The case will be tried two more times – once for the state semi-finals on March 19, and once for the state finals champions on March 24.

“If we win the state championship, the team will get to compete at the national level,” Trapani said.

Middle Township has been to the national competition twice, Trapani said. Once in 2007 and again in 2011. This year’s team members are Dylan Rhile, Victoria Shappell, Morgon Goranson, Nick Stella, Gabby Giuliano, Casie Salvadore, Dillon Keller, Rob Cline, Lauren Anderson, Tim Gear, Austin Hentges, Amber D’Abundo, Kassandra Ramos and Rose Frye.

The coaches are  Martina Trapani and Joseph Towns. The alumni coaches are Nina Ranalli and Samantha Burkholder.

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