Cape Elizabeth High School’s mock trial team in the court room after winning state finals against Brewer in Portland. The team is excited to head to nationals in May, said coach Richard O’Meara. Courtesy Mary Page

CAPE ELIZABETH — On Jan. 14, State Rep. Anne Carney and State Sen. Rebecca Millett congratulated Cape Elizabeth High School’s mock trial team on winning the state championship.

The team won against Brewer during state finals in Portland, which means that the students will be competing in nationals in Evansville, Indiana, in May, said club adviser Mary Page.

This is the eighth win in nine years for the high school’s mock trial team, she said.

“They did a great job and we’re excited to have that title back,” said Page.

Carney and Millett presented the team and coaches with a legislative sentiment, wishing the students best of luck and congratulations.

State Rep. Anne Carney (left) reads a legislative sentiment to the Cape Elizabeth High School mock trial team that she and State Sen. Rebecca Millett presented on the Jan. 14 school board meeting. Catherine Bart/Sentry

Page acknowledged Richard O’Meara, an attorney and practice chair for education law with Murray Plumb & Murray in Portland, who has been coaching the team for 16 years. She added that former attorney David Hillman and attorney/CEHS alum Jonathan Sahrbeck also assist with coaching.

“(O’Meara’s) been with the team since 2004, and he doesn’t get paid anything,” she said. “He just puts in thousands of hours.”

O’Meara echoed Page’s pride for the mock trial team in an email.

“The 2019 Cape Elizabeth mock trial team demonstrated a great work ethic and a high level of determination and resiliency in recapturing the state title with their victory over Brewer in the state finals last month,” he said. “Everyone on the roster showed tremendous improvement since practices began in September, and several new members of the team made significant contributions this year.”

During the meeting, Hillman said that mock trial is a huge commitment for students.

“They really do an excellent job and it’s a unique way to get pure critical thinking,” he said. “They have to stand in a court room with a judge with another team and have to pick apart everything they do and things happen. Witnesses forget stuff, judges make nutty rulings, and all kinds of things happen. They have to adjust on the fly to changing events, especially for those who do closings.”

Students from the Cape Elizabeth mock trial team with the school board and coaches on Jan. 14. Catherine Bart/Sentry

Juniors and seniors on the team have attended nationals before, said Page, but everyone is thrilled to be heading to Indiana to collaborate with other teams.

“The way the students come together with other students across the country is really exciting to see,” she told the school board and parents.

Mock trial teaches teenagers how to become quick thinkers, Page said. They need to prepare now for the hundreds of pages of court documents that will be used during nationals. The official case is released on April 1.

“They need to learn to think on their feet and they need poise and confidence,” she said. “Even if they don’t know an objective, they have to stand and speak coherently and weigh through the materials.” 

Hillman said that as a coach, he can’t give the students the answers because they’re impossible to know, even in real court cases.

“The freshmen start out wanting us to give them the answer, a little matrix to every problem, and we tell them that we can’t,” he said. “I can’t predict what’s going to happen. So they have to learn and they have to learn it well. This year they’ve done a great job and we’re all really proud of them.”

A Jan. 3 newsletter from the school board congratulated the team.

“We will be wishing you good luck from the northeast!” the newsletter said. “Tremendous thanks go out to the students for their commitment and hard work, to the volunteers that donate countless hours supporting and teaching these students and to HS teacher Mary Page who organizes and takes the lead for the program to run.

“Principal Shedd was able to let the fire department and Cape Rescue know about the team’s return from their final trial in Portland so they could escort them back to Cape with a well-deserved and welcoming parade! Congratulations to all!”

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