By Julia Platt
This year, two teams of Moon Area High School students competed locally in the Pennsylvania State Mock Trial competition with the goal of earning the title of Mock Trial Champions. While they did not reach the finals in their first year competing at the state level, the twelve students learned about law, trials, and hard work over the past three months.
Moon was represented by two teams in the competition, a defense and a plaintiff team. On the defense was Caitlyn Cox, Emma Enos, Reuel John, Cara Leonardi, Nishanth Mallikarjun, and Kamsi Odigboh. The plaintiff team consisted of Meghan D’Aniello, Mackenzie Haberman, Ria Khazanchi, Joseph Piccirilli, Julia Platt, and Alexander Woolsey.
Seniors Emma Enos, Joseph Piccirilli, and Julia Platt each had prior law experience before joining the mock trial team. Emma Enos, during the summer of 2019, participated in the Envision Intensive Law and Trial Program at Stanford University where she learned all about constructing cases and presenting them at the mock trial level. Julia Platt also had mock trial experience when she was a member of the Summer Law and Trial Institute hosted by Ohio University in 2020. Joseph Piccirilli has been a member of the Speech and Debate Team at Moon High School since his sophomore year and enjoys the competitive exchange of thoughts that comes with the club.
The underclassmen rounding out the team this year grew immensely from the time of starting practice to the final trials. Mackenzie Haberman, Cara Leondardi, and Nishanth Mallikarjun both took up their roles as attorneys with a skill admirable for high school students. Caitlyn Cox, Reuel John, Kamsi Odigboh, Meghan D’Aneillo, Ria Khazanchi, and Alexander Woolsey, all played witnesses in the case. Their confidence levels in their roles grew so much so that by the end of the season, each student played their character remarkably. Between Meghan D’Aneillo’s “if looks could kill” line and Kamsi Odigboh’s admirable advocacy for her role, the witnesses brough the entire case together and paved the way for the teams’ wins.
Graciously assisting the teams in preparing their cases, Amanda and Michael Zagari coached the students for the months leading up to the competition. Both experienced and practicing attorneys in their respective fields, the Zagari’s were an invaluable asset to the students. With two practices a week per team, the students not only learned the in’s and out’s of the case, but they also learned the intricacies of the law that they were using in their trials. However, despite the time commitment, each student can attest to the fact that the Zagari’s made even the most mundane rules of law entertaining. Their passion for the subject matter brought life into the long hours of practicing, and both teams are extremely grateful for their generosity.
In the school’s first time entering the state competition, Moon managed to make their way to the quarterfinals. The students threw themselves into a case involving complicated medical terminology, complex fact patterns, and immense options on how to present their cases. Going head-to-head with other schools, Moon fought their way through the rounds against just as prepared teams. The students learned a great amount of knowledge in such a short time, and the future of the mock trial team along with its participants have a bright, bright future after this year of competition.