Empire V Biggest Event in EMTA HistoryPublished: Friday, November 4th, 2011
Five hundred gather for unforgettable weekend
The ballots have been tabulated, and the verdict is in: this year’s Empire City Invitational was the biggest — and best — by all accounts. Whether measured by the number of teams, quality of competition, or excitement at social events, Empire V proved to be the most successful tournament in the Empire Mock Trial Association’s history.
Even with the case closed, the city’s bright lights behind them – students remember the Empire weekend as the highlight of their mock trial, even high school, experiences.
“It was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life,” said Aileen Flood, from Eureka Secondary School in County Meath, Ireland.
“Empire was a weekend of my life that I will never forget,” said Smriti Gupta, from Sylvania Southview High School in Sylvania, Ohio. “The people, the competition, the sightseeing, and the entire atmosphere of the Empire made it something that I’m extremely proud to have been a part of.”
Welcoming a record number of schools to New York, Empire V hosted 34 teams from six countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
To accommodate the larger field, the Empire implemented a two-division system for the four rounds of trial. At the conclusion of the four rounds, the top two teams in each division went head-to-head, with 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2.
The division system proved to produce the highest caliber teams for the World Championship and inaugural Placement Rounds.
The reigning Florida State Champions, American Heritage High School competed against former two-time National Champion Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association (“CSTHEA”) from Chattanooga, Tennessee in the Placement Round, with CSTHEA placing third and American Heritage taking home fourth place honors.
The Championship Round featured a battle of mock trial titans with La Reina High School squaring off against Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory High School. Both teams are defending State Champions with La Reina placing 16th at Nationals in 2011 and Wyoming Seminary finishing 6th.
The finale was judged by Kings County Supreme Court Judge, the Honorable Joseph Kevin McKay.
Few would have imagined a closer round than the championship round of Empire IV, which had a 7-7-1 decision that came down to a point differential tie-breaker. Henry W. Grady easily won the tiebreaker by 59 points.
But because everything at Empire V was bigger, and better than last year – it was only fitting that this year’s final round ended in an even closer decision. After every ballot was tabulated, checked, and re-checked – it was confirmed: the jury had come to the closest decision in Empire history.
It was 6-6-1. Just 16 points separated the two teams — 1.23 points per ballot.
Hundreds waited in the Grand Ballroom at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge to hear the results in a Closing Ceremony.
Despite the crowds that gathered to hear the result, not a single voice could be heard in the moments leading up to the announcement of the World Champion. Tournament Coordinator, Justin Matarrese explained how close the round was, and then announced the jury’s decision.
“In the closest decision in Empire history, your 2011 World Champion is…”
Facing each other on opposite sides of the room, teammates from La Reina and Wyoming Seminary collectively closed their eyes, squeezed each other’s hands, and held their breath.
“La Reina High School!”
“We were completely beside ourselves with joy and excitement,” said Elizabeth Hribal, a member of La Reina’s team.
That joy and excitement can be better visualized in the stream of tears that could be seen on nearly every team member and coaches’ faces as they took the stage and held the World Championship trophy for the first time, lifting it in the air, singing out: “We Are the Champions.”
That moment capped off a weekend full of rounds of competition and vibrant social events – all designed to offer the best in mock trial while fostering friendships that span the globe.
Empire V featured more social events and opportunities for learning than ever before.
The Empire weekend began on Thursday night, with a mock trial seminar put on by EMTA staff. Students learned trial advocacy tips and techniques from EMTA’s experienced mock trial staff.
The next morning was the Opening Ceremony held in the Marriott, which featured a Welcome Video by Multimedia Director Danielle Waugh. Watch the video here.
Keynote speaker, the Honorable Jill Konviser, New York State Supreme Court Judge, addressed the students and spoke about pursuing a career in law.
“Gone are the days of only 65 year old male judges,” said Judge Konviser, greeted with a round of applause from the students.
Every student was greeted with a welcome letter from New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
“I am proud to applaud all the students participating in the terrific Empire City Invitational,” said New York City’s Mayor. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I am… delighted to welcome all of our visitors to our great City.”
After the Opening Ceremony, the teams enjoyed a Pin Ceremony, where students exchanged pins and mementos from home states or countries. Students could be seen wearing pins given to them by their new friends. Green Point Christian College from New South Wales, Australia handed out koala bears to the other teams while Henry W. Grady High School from Atlanta, Georgia continued its tradition of giving out case themed buttons. One such button read, “BNN has no Faith” — a pun on the defendant in this year’s case, news station BNN and its hired gun journalism expert, Professor Riley Faith.
The perennial Empire favorite, the harbor cruise, kicked off Saturday night, giving students a chance to eat and dance together while enjoying views of the Manhattan Skyline and Statue of Liberty.
For the first time, the Empire included a Closing Ceremony and Farewell Dance after the Championship Round.
“We wanted a way to end the weekend on a high note, to both celebrate all the teams’ success, and give the students a way to say goodbye to the friends they had made throughout the weekend,” said Matarrese.
The top attorneys, witnesses and teams were honored. Additionally, Spain Park High School from Alabama and the Hanyoung Foreign Language School from Korea were recognized for their display of civility and sportsmanship, with the former taking home the inaugural Spirit of New York award.
A DJ played songs for students to dance into the night, and end the Empire V weekend in celebration.
Remembering the rounds of competition, legal lessons learned, and friends made, students look back on Empire V wishing it never had to end.
“I learned so much and met so many lovely people,” said Hannah Sheikh, of Chelmsford County School in Essex, United Kingdom.
“I wish it wasn’t over.”
Danielle Waugh can be reached at DWaugh@empiremocktrial.org
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