Mock Trial beats rival to advance to state competition

The TPHS Mock Trial team beat long-time rival Westview High School in the San Diego County High School Mock Trial Competition finals on Feb. 27, advancing to the state level for the first time since 2013.

To Addison Thomas (12), an attorney on the defense team, it “feels like our hard work has paid off.”

Prior to their win in the finals, the TPHS Mock Trial team went 4-0 in their initial rounds, finishing as the second seed headed to the semifinals. A win against La Jolla High School in the semifinals not only secured their place in the finals, but seeded them first, ahead of Westview, the county champion of the past two years.

While the last month was filled with trips downtown to the Central Courthouse, the journey to States began long before the 2023-24 season. TPHS advanced to the county semifinals in 2020-2021, but lost to Westview. The following year, TPHS made it to finals, and again lost to Westview. Last year in the 2022-23 season, TPHS placed ninth in the county, ending their season before the semifinals.

“I think that’s pretty impressive to go from ninth to first and I think it means a lot for the whole team to finally beat Westview,” Thomas said. “It feels really good knowing that last year, we weren’t on our best game but this year we really are and I think we’re all ready to go to States.”

One major change to the team this year was a new coach: Pratik Shah, a local defense attorney who, to Mock Trial members, is a welcome addition and dedicated coach. Shah filled a vacancy left by the former TPHS coach of more than a decade, who switched to another school’s Mock Trial team.

“We were freaking out because we didn’t know who would step in,” Alina Hsu (12), a witness for the prosecution team, said. “So we didn’t know [if there would be an attorney who] would have the time to come and be willing to help us out.”

Shah joined attorney coach Robert Trestman at TPHS; the two have worked with the team since September.

“[Shah is] a really good coach. He’s dedicated to the team … that’s something that I really appreciate,” Mock Trial President Joshua Yu (12) said. “He takes time out of his afternoons, on weekends and on New Year’s Day just to help the team withmeetings. The way that he coaches us really embodies our team.”

Going into this season’s county championship, Yu was the only member of the team to have faced Westview previously.

“[Shah is] really competitive and I really like the spirit that he brings to the team,” Yu said.

Shah has never coached Mock Trial before, but did compete in law school. Following the previous coach’s departure, Shah applied for the volunteer position when the county reached out looking for a coach.

“I didn’t even know I was taking over for an old coach … I assumed there were other coaches here and I was planning on being more of an assistant,” Shah said. “When I arrived and realized the situation, I was a little shocked but decided to jump right in.”

The team met more this season than in the 2023-2024 season, including more Zoom calls and longer practices, according to Hsu.

“He’s improved our confidence a lot … having someone who’s so experienced really helps the team prepare better,” Hsu said.

Part of Shah’s motivation to be the coach for TPHS’ Mock Trial team comes from his own experience with Mock Trial.

“I loved doing Mock Trial in law school. [When] San Diego county sent out an email asking for coaches, … I saw itasawaytopaythedebtthatIowe to my Mock Trial coach, Jane Siegel,” Shah said. “She changed the trajectory of my career, and to potentially do that for someone else is a true blessing.”

The team is set to compete in Los Angeles from March 22 to 24, where they have the opportunity to advance to Nationals.

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