Mainland Mock Trial team

Mainland Regional High School’s Mock Trial team. From left: Peyton Bortner (junior), Andrea Boyce (junior), Valerie Speirs (senior), Georgia Ridgway (senior, back), Jessica Caampued (senior, front), Luke McSorley (sophomore), Madison Smith (junior, back), Nicole Faragher (sophomore, front), Regan Stillman (sophomore), Maya Berg (sophomore) and Christopher Fernandez (adviser).

Mainland Regional High School’s mock trial team is headed to the New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s championship finals after winning the state semifinals.

The team, which consists of 10 students, will compete April 11 at the New Jersey Law Center of New Brunswick against Colts Neck High School of Monmouth County.

Team adviser Christopher Fernandez, 46, of Egg Harbor Township, said this season’s case involves a young adult suing an amusement park after being injured on a roller coaster.

Mainland, which is one of nine teams in Atlantic County, won the county competition for the eighth year in a row against Atlantic City High School and the southern regional competition for the fifth year against Central Regional High School of Ocean County. Mainland defeated Newton High School of Sussex County in the semifinals.

The team that wins the finals will advance to the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Athens, Georgia.

“If we go to nationals, (mock trial) goes to May. That’s basically the whole year. It’s very draining at times, the whole process. I think it’s tough for everyone, including me,” Fernandez said, adding, “You have to do a lot of things on the fly and think on your feet.”

Although Fernandez has been Mainland’s mock trial adviser for 23 years, he said preparation and figuring out how to organize practices is always a challenge. Despite that, he said, “Year after year, (students) live up to the pressure.”

To prepare, the team has after-school meetings to discuss the case. Fernandez gives them instructions on basic elements of law. The team also has a real-life lawyer as an adviser, Dominic DePamphilis from D’Arcy Johnson Day, who was once a mock trial student on Fernandez’s team.

Fernandez said the most rewarding part of the process has been watching his students learn and grow.

“When I see it click, that means a lot to me,” he said. “I just want to see them do their best.”

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