First Time In 32 Years

FREWSBURG – The Frewsburg Central School district is home to a championship-caliber mock trial team.

On Monday and Tuesday, Frewsburg’s mock trial team competed as one of six regional champions at the High School Mock Trial State Finals in Albany.

The team placed fifth in the state competition, in which approximately 300 schools throughout the state participate annually. In order to make it to the state level, the Frewsburg team had to beat opposition at both county and regional competitions, a feat it was able to successfully achieve. The regional competition, held in Batavia, also included teams from Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

Traditionally, the regional champions have been almost exclusively Buffalo- or Rochester-based school districts. According to Tom Nelson, the team’s faculty adviser, Frewsburg’s victory at the regional competition was a landmark achievement.

“This was the first time in 32 years that a team from outside of Erie or Monroe counties advanced to the championships,” he said.

The team consisted of eight Frewsburg students-six seniors, as well as Jacob Ernewein, a junior, and Anthony Mole, a freshman. The seniors included: Tera Anderson, Sarah Moller, Samantha Mann, Alanna Blanchard, Morgan Knight and Jacob Caldwell. In addition to Nelson, the team was also advised by Sherry Bjork, a Frewsburg-based attorney.

Nelson said, due to the fact that the majority of this year’s team was made up of graduating seniors, it will be difficult to replace them, and there will need to be some rebuilding efforts to coordinate another team of this caliber. But, he said, this year’s accomplishments should not be overlooked.

“I’ve had some very good teams, but this team (has) accomplished more than any other team I’ve had,” said Nelson, who has served as the team’s faculty adviser since 1989. “For us to finish fifth is pretty good. I was pleased and I think the kids were awesome. They just did a tremendous job all year, and I think we definitely represented our end of the state well. It was an awesome experience, and it was great to be in Albany.”

Nelson said he wanted to thank the volunteer efforts of Bjork, who dedicates much energy and time into assisting the team with their cases, as well as the assistance of several other county lawyers.

“Any time we have a trial at the county level, there are (local) lawyers that hear the cases and serve as judges. After each case, they help us along and give us advice, so I’d like to thank all of those attorneys. Surrogate Court Judge Stephen Cass has been a big help to the team, and we appreciate his assistance over the years,” he said.

The New York State Mock Trial tournament is a joint venture among the New York Bar Foundation, the New York State Bar Association and the Law, Youth and Citizenship Program. High school teams from public and nonpublic schools participate in the tournament, beginning at the county level. In tournament competition, the teams argue both sides of the case, and assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses. Judges, usually local judges or attorneys, score the teams based on a rating sheet that includes scoring on preparation, performance and professionalism.

The goal of the mock trial program is to further the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for students to become civically engaged in a democratic society. Student involvement in the program increases their awareness of the importance of law in a democratic society, and strengthens their understanding of the fundamental rights awarded by the U.S. Constitution.