Mock Trial finals cancelled due to COVID-19 risks, team’s progress halted

The Mock Trial team had been preparing to advance to state finals after defeating CHS in the Santa Clara County finals, held in the Old Courthouse in San Jose on Feb. 26. However, in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the finals have since been canceled by the National High School Mock Trial Championship (NHSMTC) board of directors, according to the NHSMTC website.  

Even before the finals were canceled altogether, the team’s progress to the event was halted after administration informed the team they would not be allowed to attend the event due to safety concerns.

I think the thing about [the] corona[virus] is that it’s so unexpected. We don’t really know what repercussions it can have, which is why I completely understand the authorities’ recommendations to cancel all these events.

— Roma Bedekar (12)

Prosecution attorney and junior Haritha Muthukumar said this new change came as a major blow for the team, since they had come so far with their win in the county finals.

“Ever since HHS has had a Mock Trial team, we’ve never made it this far,” Muthukumar said. “This was the first year that we became county champions and I think it proved to us and the schools who looked down upon us, that we have the power and the intellectual capacity to defeat them. Everyone was super excited, but now we can’t go, so everyone’s really upset.”

After learning that state finals as a whole were cancelled, the Mock Trial team attempted to negotiate a solution with the organization to prevent the event from being canceled, president of Mock Trial and senior Katie Rizkalla said.

“The first couple days after it happened we were like, ‘No way, we’re going to fight this,’”  she said. “We were like, ‘We’re going to go, it doesn’t matter what it takes.’”

But ultimately, Rizkalla said the Mock Trial team came to the realization there was no way around the organization’s decision.

“We kept trying, but it was finally dawning on us that [going to state finals] just wasn’t possible,” Rizkalla said.

Despite the pandemic, Rizkalla said she does not think everyday life should be halted in its tracks.

“I understand that people are scared and I think that is 100 percent fine,” she said. “There is absolutely merit to a little bit of it, but I think that a lot of it is reactionary. I keep coming back to the idea that there is inherent risk to be part of society … I think that no matter how big the risk gets, you can’t shut down all of society.” 

However, co-vice president and senior Roma Bedekar said although the sudden change of events is disappointing, she believes the cancelation was a necessary measure to ensure public safety.

“As a senior, I’ve seen the team grow since day one,” Bedekar said. “It is so amazing since this has always been our goal and we’ve finally made it this year. It’s really disappointing, a lot of the stuff I wanted to do this semester has been canceled but I understand where it is coming from and I understand it is for our safety.”

Despite the setback, Bedekar said she is looking at the bright side of the situation.

“Our accomplishment still stands because this year we were county finalists [whereas] before we’ve only made quarterfinals,” Bedekar said. ”This year, we made quarter[finals], semifinals, and finals which is something our school has never done. So I think it is still an amazing note to end the year on.”