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Two in a row: Luverne Mock Trial team heads to state again

Members of the 2015-16 Luverne High School Mock Trial team pose for a photo. Front row: Knute Oldre (from left), Tatiana Gust, Susan Thompson, Emma Verbrugge, Kaitlyn Roberts and Dylan Thorson. Back row: Hannah Hoogland (from left), Hans Bakken, Jadyn Anderson, Mira Utihoven, Madi Schandelmeier, Megan Rogers and Alexa Chesley. Members not pictured are Gunnar Oldre, Zayna Hustoft, Anika Gust, Hannah Ehlers, Grace Sweeney and Nicole Aanenson. Submitted Photo

LUVERNE — Luverne High School’s Mock Trial team is hard at work preparing for a second trip to the state finals after winning in regional competition this past week.

Luverne defeated Lakeview High School Blue, 236-223. The 19-member team has 11 returning members from last year’s group, and the experience of the more seasoned members and eagerness of new members has combined to create a winning formula.

“I think they performed extremely well (at regionals),” advisor Deb Schandelmeier said. “They understand the case a lot more deeply. They know the case so well, they know when to adjust.”

In mock trial, teams are given a case to present in competition. Members portray both witnesses and counsel. The trial is either a civil or criminal case in alternating years, and this year’s case took place just after the end of prohibition.

“We have a very fun case — the Hamm kidnapping case from 1933 — and it really happened in Ramsey County,” Schandelmeier said.

The fictional case is based on historical information from Paul Maccabee’s book, “John Dillinger Slept Here.” The case also is adaptable for different genders of students by offering parts with two names to accommodate the gender of the participant portraying the character.

In the competition’s State of Minnesota vs. Jack/Jackie Peifer, Peifer is a gangster who made his home in St. Paul along with running a speakeasy, casino and hotel called the Hollyhocks in the same city. William/Wilhelmina Hamm, the proprietor of Hamm’s Brewery, is kidnapped while walking home for lunch. Another gangster, Ryan Touhy, is originally charged with and later acquitted of the crime, leading to a new investigation that points to Peifer as the culprit.

Last year marked the team’s first trip to state in nearly a decade. That experience has offered insight for the team in creating strategy, while regional competition opened the team’s eyes to other areas needing attention before heading to state this year.

“We’ve definitely encountered things to work on before state,” Schandelmeier said. “… We now know a little better what we are up against.”

Schandelmeier shared that the team has been hard at work practicing the case since receiving it last fall. She said she’s proud of the progress her team has made and looks forward to the state contest beginning March 3.

“I can’t say enough how wonderful these kids are — how hardworking, sacrificing,” Schandelmeier said. “We’ve had this case since October. They are all very involved in other things, and yet still they take the time out to devote to mock trial — and they are just an amazing bunch of kids.”

Robin Baumgarn

Robin Baumgarn is a new reporter for the Daily Globe covering the Education and Northwest Iowa beats. Prior to coming to the Globe, she worked for the Ocheyedan Press-Melvin News, a weekly Iowa paper for three years. She is a 2012 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College and lives in Northwest Iowa with her husband Ryan and three pets, Fidget, Missy and Samwise.

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