The courtroom battles are over for this year, but the Huntington High School mock trial team hasn’t shut down its competitive juices. The high performing legal warriors just can’t turn their intellectual engines off that easily.
In three short years, Huntington’s mock trial squad has become one of Suffolk’s best. It reached the county’s Sweet 16 round this winter despite seeing many of its top stars graduate last June. A talented team consisting heavily of underclassmen rapidly grasped the essential elements of this year’s statewide case and mastered their roles and courtroom strategies, etiquette and procedures.
Abby Bellistri was named Best Cross Examiner for 2017.
The team celebrated its successful season last Friday night. A seemingly endless array of hot and cold appetizers were passed among the teenagers and parents as the group chatted away with each other and with faculty advisors Suzie Biagi and Sarah Buchalter and legal advisors Xavier Palacios and Jack Piana.
“I entered the season not knowing what the team would look like or how it would do,” Mr. Palacios said. “But these kids worked extremely hard over many, many hours to acquire the knowledge and skills they needed to compete against the best teams. I am so proud of them.”
Huntington impressed judges and the coaches of opposing teams who all marveled at how the program has ascended so quickly and how well such a group of young students performed in a high pressured courtroom atmosphere against skilled competition.
“I was very impressed with how each member of the team improved in such a short period of time,” Mr. Piana said. “The devoted an enormous amount of hours to the team and to sharpening their own skills with fantastic results.”
Best Litigator Award recipient Max Robins with legal advisors Xavier Palacios and Jack Piana.
Max Robins captured the Most Outstanding Litigator Award while Abby Bellistri was named the Best Cross Examiner. Alyssa Befumo garnered the Most Improved Award, but Mr. Piana was quick to point out that the teenager was strong to begin with and worked so hard she became “truly exceptional.”
Paul Katigbak and Claudia Villatoro both won awards for Best Rookie Performance. Rory Bocelli was recognized with the Best Witness Performance Award.
The teenagers participated on the team for a variety of reasons and personal interests and they all found it to be worthwhile. “Mock trial was an unforgettable experience that provided me with helpful skills that I can use in my future,” Ms. Bellistri said.
Mr. Palacios encouraged the mock trial team members to apply for law firm internships this summer and to consider participating in the New York State Bar Association’s mock trial school in Lake George in July. The intense one week program accepts 48 applicants for advanced training.
“My goal for our team is to win the county and state championships,” Mr. Palacios said. “Watching these wonderful kids work so hard has convinced me that this lofty goal is attainable.”
Team members presented Messrs. Palacios and Piana with white silk ties as a token of appreciation for the countless hours the two practicing attorneys devoted to the legal squad. The duo are both Huntington High School graduates who live in the community and volunteered to work with the mock trial team and the teenagers have responded in a sensational way to their instruction, guidance and coaching.