LAKE TWP.  For the first time in the school’s history, the mock trial team at Lake Local High School has advanced to the state level competition. The team won the regionals held in Summit County on Feb. 10.

The team advances to state competitions March 9-11 in Columbus. There will be 32 teams from all over Ohio competing in the state tournament. Those winning teams winning their first two cases on March 9 will advance to cases three and four on March 10. The championship round will be held March 11.

This year’s team at Lake has eight members made up of juniors and seniors. The students are from the Legal Studies program offered through Lake Local’s College Tech programming.

"This year’s team took first place in the regionals and advanced to the state competition for the first time in the district’s history," said Teresa Miller, teacher in the Legal Studies program. "We also received two outstanding attorneys and two outstanding witness awards at regionals. Part of what makes this team so outstanding is their passion for competition. Plus, the students themselves have performed exceptionally. We also have five legal advisors helping this year where we generally only have two," she said.

Miller said she usually always has students do a great job with performing as attorneys, but this year the students have stepped up their game as witnesses. She said one student went on to learn how to cry on demand because she has to deliver an emotional testimony.

"The witnesses this year are so believable. The way some of them hold their eyeglasses or the way they are emotional with their testimony has really made a difference this year. The students are highly believable and seem to actually become the person they are portraying," Miller said.

The legal advisors help the students with learning more about courtroom procedures, writing opening and closing statements, how to object and how to respond to an objection.

Students from all the districts in Ohio argue the same case through district, regional and state competitions. They receive a new case if they go onto nationals sometime later in the spring.

The 2017 mock trial case considers a hypothetical case involving defamation of a public official by a news station. In the fictitious case, Pat Justice recently ran for re-election as governor of the State of Ohio. During the campaign, Trillium High School’s "We the People" club invited Governor Justice to speak during the lunch hour.

Afterward, the governor met with a student in the principal’s office. Principal I.M. Veritas was a rival of Gov. Justice in college and once the two were alone an argument began which ended with the governor storming out. As the governor left, Veritas suffered a fatal brain aneurysm and died. A student reporter heard the argument and reported to a local news affiliate CAT news that the governor had killed the principal.

While it was disproven quickly, the story went viral. Justice lost the election and now has filed a defamation suit against CAT News. The former governor seeks to prove that the station published the story with malice and the damaging story cost him the election.

"The state competition is highly competitive and there are certain schools in Ohio that seem to move onto nationals every year. We have a good chance of competing well at state and we want to enjoy the experience. There may be teams that beat us but we will never lose," Miller said.

According to the Ohio Center for Law Related Education’s website, more than 3,000 high school students competed across the state on Jan. 20. Ohio Mock Trial is the largest non-athletic competition in Ohio and among the largest in the nation. Teachers and legal professionals volunteer their time and expertise every year.