News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

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Mock Trial goes to state


For the third consecutive year, Tamalpais High School’s varsity mock trial team has won the Marin County championship and is moving on to the California statewide competition from March 22 to 24. 

Led by head coach David Vogelstein, a criminal defense attorney with over 40 years of courtroom experience, and first-year faculty advisor Kelsey Holtzinger, Tam’s mock trial has continued the legacy set forth by teams in years prior. According to Vogelstein, besides one year during COVID-19 where he stepped away from coaching, Tam has won 27 out of the last 28 Marin County championships under his leadership.

“At the time that I came in [Mock Trial] was not very popular, we had to go into classes and pull kids out to get them on the team,” Vogelstein said. “After my first year I realized I had fallen in love with this, I realized that I may be a really good lawyer, but I am an even better coach.”

And so the streak began, where, according to Vogelstein, Tam consistently made a showing in the Marin County championship, garnered four state championships, and achieved the highest of all honors in 2005, when they took home the victory from the National High School Mock Trial Championship. 

“Since then it has been a cycle of maintaining the legacy from years prior, calming down after doing so, and looking onward towards the state, and potentially national, competitions up ahead,” Vogelstein said. 

Over the past several years, Vogelstein claims to have been building a particularly strong team, both in staff and students. As of this season, the team is piloted by senior captain Harrison Engel, who has worked with Vogelstein on structuring and building up the diverse varsity team.

“We have a unique situation this year because we are a team made up of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors,” Engel said. “[We] have had to take a special approach towards working as a group and collaborating.”

“It is a bizarre spot to be in, yet an extremely beneficial one,” Vogelstein said. “It is so rare to have such strong and capable freshmen and sophomores who are court-ready, and it is a huge advantage to be able to use them because they want to leave their mark.” 

The addition of Holtzinger as the new faculty advisor has, according to Tam sophomore and mock trial member Zoe Goldman, also led to a strong morale boost for the team.

“I was approached by one of the mock trial students, Zoe Goldman, to be a chaperone for one of their weekend tournaments down in Santa Barbara,” Holtzinger said. “I spent the whole weekend entranced in the courtroom, I was hooked.” 

“At the end of the day [the students] will always do their best when they are enjoying themselves,” Vogelstein said. “I try to instill that in them myself, but it turns out that [Holtzinger] is substantially better at it than me.”

According to Holtzinger, the team has been practicing vigorously since September 2023, and, after again claiming the Marin County title, is getting readily prepared for state. 

According to Engel, and junior members Gabrielle Beyer and Gus Mehrkam, unlike the county-level competitions, where the mock trial teams’ goal is to persuade a jury, the state competition is facilitated and decided by a judge. 

“It is an entirely different challenge, and therefore requires different preparation,” Vogelstein said. “Instead of focusing on appealing to the emotion and morality of a jury, they have to deal strictly with the facts, and win regardless of the circumstances.”

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