The ballroom at the Hartford Convention Center is silent. Students are sitting on the edge of their seats. They are about to find out the next National Champion.
For Central Carolina Homeschoolers, an hour may as well be an eternity. Having just competed in the Championship Round, they are nervously awaiting the results.
The Master of Ceremonies takes the mic. The students, coaches and parents take a deep breath. You can hear a pin drop.
“In second place… Kalamazoo Central High School.”
The students gasp, but stay composed—wanting to show the utmost respect to their adversaries from Michigan. But in that moment, they knew. Their dreams were about to become a reality.
“Your 2017 National Champion… Central Carolina Homeschoolers.”
It was confirmed. They had done it. This community that had represented North Carolina at the past five National Championships (“NHSMTC”) had finally captured the title for which they so fervently fought.
“We were… numb,” says Attorney coach Darren Allen. “We sat there for a few seconds staring at each other… soaking it all in. To be honest, days later, it still almost doesn’t feel real.”
Sophomore Allyn Sims felt the same.
“It was so surreal.”
“I don’t think it can properly be put into words,” added sophomore David Bainbridge.
We’ll try to help:
The Central Carolina Homeschoolers are the 2017 National Champions.
Mock Trial Dominance
Their feat was a historic one. With their victory, Central Carolina become the first team in North Carolina history to capture the NHSMTC Championship, besting 45 teams in a field that included state champions, and representatives from the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Korea.
“During the rounds, the competition was definitely intense, and that helped fuel our motivation,” said Sims.
That fuel propelled the Champions to a dominant performance.
In their four preliminary rounds, 12 judges scored Central Carolina. And the team did not lose a ballot. Not one. 12-0.
How did they achieve perfection? Coach Allen chalks it up to the ethos of the team.
“We have very strong individual competitors, but they don’t seek the limelight or the glory,” says Allen. “This is truly a great team in the truest sense of the term.”
As an example of the group’s closeness, Senior Joshua Way is about to shave his head, after promising his team he would do so if they won Nationals. He’s also taking part in St. Baldrick’s campaign to raise money for childhood cancer research.
Coach Allen also discussed his team’s relentless work ethic. His students worked on mock trial around the clock, meeting frequently for practice. And when they couldn’t meet in person, they’d rely on their phones and computers to connect them.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you how much time our kids put into this case,” noted Allen. “Some of the parents even had to implement internet controls to make sure their kids would actually get some sleep!”
When asked about his team’s success, Allen never talks about the glue that holds it all together:
That’s because Allen isn’t one to talk about himself. He is as humble as he is selfless.
“His ability to develop great advocates is only matched by his ability to develop great people,” said Empire Mock Trial’s Justin Matarrese. “Every year, his teams are nationally competitive, and his students are some of the kindest you’ll meet. That’s a testament to him—he’s a role model for his kids.”
Central Carolina’s Empire Experience
“We owe a great deal to Empire,” says Allen, whose team started attending Empire in 2012, just one year after their mock trial program was founded.
Central Carolina entered the Empire program hoping to accelerate their mock trial development.
One cannot argue with their success.
Over the past five years, they have qualified for Nationals on four occasions, and captured this year’s National Championship.
“Without the Empire experience for two years straight now, I know that we would probably not be at the level we are,” says Bainbridge, who closed for Central Carolina in the final round, and earned an attorney award. Bainbridge had captured a similar honor just seven months prior at Empire New York.
Sharing Bainbridge’s sentiment was teammate Caitlyn Kelly.
Kelly starred as a “Guest Witness” at Empire New York, where she prepared a direct examination with a student from another school in just 30 minutes.
“Empire certainly refined our improvisation abilities,” she explained. “It taught us how to read judges and adapt to their preferences. The guest witness aspect gave me the experience of altering examinations on the fly, which was something I needed to do in practically every trial at Nationals.”
But what about the Empire experience has prepared them so well for Nationals?
“You get the chance to compete against some of the best teams without the pressure of win-or-go-home, with a tough case and with tough rules,” said Allen.
“Where else can you get that kind of experience?”
Empire Mock Trial congratulates the students, parents and coaches of the Central Carolina Homeschoolers on winning the 2017 National High School Mock Trial Championship. The organization is incredibly proud of everyone who is a part of this wonderful homeschool community.
The Championship roster is included below:
David Bainbridge, Jr. (Sophomore)
Madysen Bailey (Sophomore)
Allyn Simms (Sophomore)
Emily Polson (Sophomore)
Caitlin Kelly (Junior)
Jonah Moss (Senior)
Joshua Way (Senior)
Heather Pennington (Senior)
Darren Allen (Attorney Coach)
Maria Bailey (Teacher Coach)