April has long been synonymous with beginnings.
An old rhyme contends that May seedlings are conceived in the showery fourth month. And the sitting-President digs his feet into a ten-inch mound of dirt each April and hurls a red-stitched ball 60 feet and six inches to begin the Major League Baseball season.
But the month also serves as an annual exclamation point.
On April 6, the University of North Carolina won the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship with a team that reached the Final 4 a year prior and vowed, with its core members warding off professional offerings, to return in 2009.
Eighteen days later, Allegany High School won the Maryland Mock Trial Championship with a team that reached the Final 4 a year prior and vowed, sans professional temptations, to return this year.
“We were a team of destiny,” says Coach Brian White, who led Allegany to the Final 4 in 2006 and the championship match in ‘07.
Despite their string of success, this was Allegany’s first state crown, an accomplishment many believe the team rightly deserves.
2009 Maryland Mock Trial Champion Allegany High School attorneys (from left to right) Natalie Maslow, Ryan Alderson and Morgan Walbert pose before the final trial at the Maryland Court of Appeals in Annapolis.
“It’s about time,” smiled Shelley Wojciechowski, Assistant Director of Citizenship Law Related Education Program (CLREP), Maryland’s Mock Trial organizer, outside of the Robert C. Murphy Court of Appeals, site of the Mock Trial finals.
But 130 miles west, smiles exploded into joyous exclamations after Court of Appeals Judge Joseph F. Murphy, Jr., declared Allegany the winner over Severn High School. The final match was broadcast live on the Internet and many Allegany teachers aired the trial in their classrooms. Students and faculty also held a pep-rally before the Mock Trial team left for Annapolis. Upon their return after the April 24 final, the baseball team halted practice and applauded the newly crowned state champions.
“I wasn’t surprised to hear there was that type of support,” says Howard County Circuit Court Judge and Allegany High alum Diane O. Leasure, “but I was happy to hear it.”
“Schools don’t generally have pep-rallies for academic endeavors,” says Allegany’s Attorney-Coach Robert Alderson, a member of Skidmore, Alderson & Duncan, P.A.
The Mock Trial team, though, further exemplifies the support it receives from its Cumberland constituents.
Allegany has traveled to Annapolis in April each year since 2006 without a loss, but Southern Garrett High School bested Allegany early in the regular season this year. White’s team finished the season 7-1 and hoped to make the playoffs.
Little did Allegany know that the glutton of students that tried out for the team earlier in the school year, and the subsequent creation of a second JV squad, would help them fulfill their 2008 vow.
Allegany’s second JV team, a rarity in the state’s Mock Trial competition, defeated Southern Garrett towards the end of the season, allowing the varsity to tie Bishop Walsh High School for first place in the Fourth Circuit and receive the playoff birth because they beat Bishop Walsh head-to-head. Allegany then defeated Severna Park High School, the team they lost to in last year’s final four, in the opening round.
“Sometimes,” says Alderson reflecting on the 2009 circumstances, “it’s just meant to be.”
“It felt like a weight had been lifted,” says White. “Personally, all the Mock Trial students I’ve had flooded back into my mind.”
Chris Alderson, the closing prosecutor in Allegany’s 2007 championship match and a current-Clemson University sophomore, sat a few seats away from White during the ’09 championship. Chris, son of the team’s Attorney-Coach, drove all night to see his younger brother, Ryan, perform in the state’s highest court.
Ryan, a junior, and the rest of his teammates performed with the savvy and experience that comes with being veterans, like Michael Jordan playing in his Carolina blue jersey at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium – sure there’s pressure, but when you’re talented and seasoned, the surroundings don’t affect you.
“Some of you had the presence that made it look like you’d been doing this a long time,” Stacy McCormick, a Public Defender and a performance judge in the finals, told both teams.
Allegany finally wrote their April ending. Or, was it the beginning of something greater?