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PLHS Mock Trial team heads to State

For the first time in the program’s history, the Pequot Lakes High School (PLHS) mock trial team is headed to the state tournament.

The team, made up of students ranging from eighth to 12th grade, will leave for Duluth after school Monday, March 10, after their classmates cheer them on at a pep rally.

Mock trial coach Dan Moddes, who’s been coaching the team for five years, said this group is full of veteran members who have been working together for as long as four years. On top of advancing to the state level, this team also posted a perfect record in trials this season.

“We’ve all been working really, really hard,” said Joshua Gudahl, a junior and veteran member. “We’re getting more confident, getting the hang of things.”

The state tournament will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, March 11-12, at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth. The team is guaranteed participation in three separate trials and could advance to the championship trial from there. They will not, however, know which side they’ll argue for until right before their trials. This means they must be fully prepared to argue either the prosecution or the defense.

The amount of time team members have dedicated to mock trial is immense, especially when you consider that most are involved in numerous other activities such as speech, band and student council. Gudahl, who is an “attorney” for the team, estimated he spent 20 hours working on his closing argument alone.

The group also had help from an actual attorney, Mark Mitchell, a public defender in Brainerd.

The team has grown in numbers, and the students are hoping that next year they will have enough interest to form two teams.

“I like it (mock trial) because it’s sort of like acting, except that you get to be a little argumentative and sassy,” said Colleen Tschida, also a junior and veteran.

The Minnesota High School Mock Trial Program introduces students to the American legal system through an innovative approach. They create a faux case each year that teams across the state work from and develop arguments for. The winner of the state tournament will advance to the national championship, which will be May 8-10 in Madison, Wis. Participants at the national level will need to work from an entirely new case that will not be revealed until April 1.

Chelsey Perkins can be reached at Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @PEJ_Chelsey.

Chelsey Perkins
Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Perkins has interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before joining the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.
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