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Team NMI’s mock trial Knights win major award at national competition

(MCS) — “Kind, generous, and genuine.”

These were just some of the words used by judges and competitors to describe Mount Carmel School’s Mock Trial Knights as they represented the Northern Marianas at the 2018 National High School Mock Trial Championship held in Reno, Nevada. In praising the team, the national organization presented the team with the Larry Bakko Award for Professionalism and Civility, the only team award presented at the competition other than the championship title.

“We bring home this award on behalf of the entire Northern Marianas, proud of the island hospitality we shared with all competitors at this prestigious competition,” said lead coach and school president, Galvin Deleon Guerrero. “This award represents who we are as a school and as a Commonwealth,” he added.

The official 2018 National High School Mock Trial Championship team photo of Mount Carmel School’s Mock Trial Knights, who represented the Northern Marianas at the national competition.The official 2018 National High School Mock Trial Championship team photo of Mount Carmel School’s Mock Trial Knights, who represented the Northern Marianas at the national competition.

The Larry Bakko award was created by the National High School Mock Trial Championship to highlight the importance of professionalism, civility, integrity, and fair play, both inside and outside the courtroom. The award is nominated by and voted on by all teams at the end of the competition.

The award is named after Larry Bakko, a pioneer in mock trial who developed the program’s current scoring system and contributed to the continuing success of the program. As the national organization put it, “He strove to perfect his scoring system, he worried about judging panels, he stressed over the capacity of the courtrooms for the size of the spectator groups, he provided statistical analysis and frequently responded to many questions and challenges about the power-matching system.” The organization added, “It was Larry’s tenacity and love for the program that kept him coming back year after year.” Bakko passed away in 2013 after a battle with cancer.

In addition to winning the Larry Bakko Award, the Mock Trial Knights fared well in four contentious rounds. In all four rounds, the team faced states who had previously won the national competition, including Nebraska (1985 and 2015 national champions), Georgia (1995, 1999, 2007, 2008 national champions), South Carolina (1989 and 2004 national champions), and Wisconsin (1989 national champions). All four teams have also regularly placed in the top 10 since the start of the national competition in 1984. After all the rounds, the Mock Trial Knights won 4 ballots with a score of 1000, and ranked 34th in the nation, besting a dozen other teams, including mock trial powerhouses like Indiana (2009 and 2011 national champions), Hawaii (2005 2nd place), and South Carolina.

Team NMI’s Mock Trial Knights gather for a quick photo after receiving the Larry Bakko Award for Professionalism and Civility at the 2018 National High School Mock Trial Championship in Reno, Nevada.  MCS photosTeam NMI’s Mock Trial Knights gather for a quick photo after receiving the Larry Bakko Award for Professionalism and Civility at the 2018 National High School Mock Trial Championship in Reno, Nevada. MCS photos

The team’s performance was especially impressive considering how many newcomers were on the team. Of the nine Knights that had official roles in the national competition, only three had ever competed at the national level. Moreover, the competition was a first for attorneys Justin Ocampo, Angelo Manese, and Reica Ramirez, who had never competed as attorneys either at the local or the national level prior to this year.

When asked about what it was like to compete at such a high level, Ocampo said, “At first it was nerve wracking. But, as I settled into the role more, I realize how much fun it was to apply my knowledge of the rules with my own style and presence to verbally spar with these really smart people.” He added, “And as hard as it was, I was proud that we held our own against such great teams.”

The team expressed its appreciation to everyone that supported it along the way, including its attorney coach Garth Backe, Gov. Ralph Torres, attorney Vince Torres, the CNMI Public School System, Tim Thornburgh, Dencio Manglona, the CNMI Judiciary, the CNMI Bar Association, CNMI Mock Trial Coordinator Deanna Manglona-Ogo, Eulalia Villagomez-Arriola, from the CNMI Bar Association, and Divana Dela Cruz from the CNMI judiciary.