Mock Trial team pursues varsity status

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Credit: Courtesy of Ashley Zhu

The Mock Trial team poses before the Garden City Preseason Tournament. The team is looking for varsity status. “I would argue it’s more time and commitment than most varsity sports,” Mock Trial coach Howard Lenow said.

Penelope Biddle

In order to get the recognition they feel they deserve, the Mock Trial team is seeking the title of a varsity activity. The team has existed at Wayland High School for over 25 years, and they feel that their time has come.

Most varsity activities at the high school are sports, and other than the Debate team, no club has a varsity title. Mock Trial, like the school’s sports teams, holds practices and competes against other teams. They also attend two tournaments, in which they are traditionally very successful. Their season starts at the beginning of the school year and sometimes continues into March.

“Mock Trial is very dedicated,” senior co-captain Joanna Barrow said. “Joining the team is akin to joining a sports team, we meet three times a week for about three hours. Practices are mandatory for all members. If you miss a practice, and you don’t tell us ahead of time, we are not going to let you stay on the team. It’s a very serious commitment, and we work really hard.”

The commitments of Mock Trial continue outside of practices, which are often used for practicing performances and giving each other feedback. On their own time, members draft examinations and study the case packets and affidavits.

“I would argue [the club involves] more time and commitment than most varsity sports,” Mock Trial coach Howard Lenow said.

Lenow has been the coach for 15 years. For a handful of those years, he has been trying to get the team recognized as a varsity activity. This year, he decided it was time they all put in the extra effort to get that title.

“The team has been trying to become varsity for a while,” senior co-captain Ashley Zhu said. “Since longer than I’ve been in high school. It’s mostly because the Debate [team] has a varsity letter too. We’ve always thought that we worked just as much as Debate, so it’d be nice to have a varsity letter, since Debate has one as well.”

Debate is the only non-athletic activity at the school with a varsity title, and they’ve had it for 20 years. The issue is that not many people, including administrators, know how Debate got there or how to get any other club there.

“[Debate gaining varsity status had] something to do with the tenure of the adviser and Dr. Mizoguchi, but no one really knows the exact details of how it happened,” Zhu said. “They don’t know the exact process for getting something that’s not athletics into varsity because for athletics there’s a board for the whole state that selects whether or not a team can be varsity, so there’s just no actual protocol. Before, every time we’ve asked, they said they’d look into it and get back to us, and they just never really did.”

Mock Trial members say they feel the varsity status of Debate team is a draw for new participants, and its absence from Mock Trial could be a disadvantage for the club’s recruitment.

“Debate team has continued to have this title, and we know that students are attracted to the Debate team because they have that extra elite status, and we don’t have that,” Barrow said.

This recruitment is hoped to be gained by what the club says they want most from a varsity title: recognition.

Students like to have that recognition, and they like to feel like people are valuing the time and effort they’re putting into their activity.”

— Joanna Barrow

“It kind of goes to ‘why is anything a varsity activity,’” Barrow said. “It’s because students like to have that recognition, and they like to feel like people are valuing the time and effort they’re putting into their activity.”

To get that recognition and varsity status, Mock Trial members have been reaching out to the school administration for a long time trying to work around the problem of having no process to meet their goal.

“They’re looking into the process, but it’s going to take time,” Barrow said. “They just told us that they would have to bring it up at one of their school council meetings, which involves administrators in the district. The next [meeting] is in two weeks, but they won’t be able to talk about us then. They are going to put it off until Dec.”

As they wait for the school council meeting, they continue with their efforts. Barrow started communicating with administrators over the summer, and Lenow has collected over 20 letters from former Mock Trial members.

“Our coach, Howard Lenow, has been gathering letters from former Mock Trials and Mock Trial parents who had a really great experience with the team, and they all wrote letters about how Mock Trial has impacted their lives, and how it has helped prepare them for college and how it has helped their critical thinking skills,” Barrow said. “[They] are really great letters, and we sent them to the administration for them to review and see how much of an impact Mock Trial has on students’ lives.”

Barrow is not sure what to expect at the student council meeting, but she is hopeful.

“We hope that they will either institute a process that will allow us to have the recognition of a varsity activity, or they will then say ‘okay, we will allow you to have the recognition of a varsity activity,’” Barrow said.