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Local high school senior to compete in national Mock Trial competition

Posted at 11:21 AM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 18:20:03-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — After winning county, Centennial High School’s Mock Trial team was set to compete at the state competition in March, until the coronavirus pandemic derailed plans for high schools.

With most high school seniors ending their Mock Trial careers there, one Golden Hawk is set to compete in a national online Gladiator tournament this weekend.

Every year students in Mock Trial compete in false court cases. This year CHS Senior Aleyna Young will play the part of prosecutor, defense attorney, and witness in a trial based on the popular Netflix documentary Tiger King.

"Instead of the Tiger King documentary, it's the elephant queen," Young said.

Young gave 23ABC a sneak peek into her performance during a scrimmage. This weekend she and her co-chair, fellow CHS senior Shelby Benak, will represent their team and a national competition against 36 other students.

  • WATCH: Gladiator 2020 - Welcome Announcement:

“It’s interesting because it’s online this time so we’ve had to get familiar with zoom," Young said. "Practicing how to display exhibits and what happens if there’s a technology error.”

Gladiator is one of Mock Trials most exclusive competitions, accepting less than 0.01 percent of the students who participate in high school mock trial and less than 15 percent of those who apply.

Just like a regular trial Young will present an opening statement, cross-examination, and present exhibits. She will not only be scored on her knowledge of each of these elements, but on her performance and how well she acts the part.

Which means she has to do her research.

“As soon as the case came out my parents and I, we watched the Tiger King series just to get more familiar and they interviewed the producer at some point," she said. "So because I'm going to be a witness I'm actually trying to get a little bit of how he acts in the documentary."

Mock Trial is an elective class for students, many of whom spend hours outside of the classroom in order to prepare. These meetings often taking place together at someone's home or the local Starbucks. So when the pandemic hit and forced everyone to social distance, the world of Mock Trial changed for these students and their coach.

“We miss that obviously," said Brett Dodson, CHS's Mock Trial coach. "That’s the part of the fun part of mock trial is being together and becoming a family and getting really close.”

Dobson has been coaching Mock Trial for 21 years — 14 of those at Centennial. He said it was hard finishing his last year coaching at CHS away from his team.

“I have five students including Shelby and Aleyna who were on the team for all four years of high school. It just doesn’t happen very often so it's really sad to have it end the way it did," he said. "It’s been a long haul, it’s been a big part of my career.”

Although he was unable to take his team to state this year, Dobson said he's proud his students have the opportunity to shine one last time.

“It's fun to end it here with two students who have been super dedicated to the team."

Young will compete in the Gladiator Mock Trial competition Saturday and Sunday via zoom. After this, she will continue her education at the University of California Santa Barbara in the fall.