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Team wins mock trial championship, survives Sandy

November 3, 2012 |  8:00 am

La Reina Mock Trial

As Hurricane Sandy barreled through the northeastern seaboard, a Thousand Oaks Catholic high school’s mock trial team was busy preparing for the biggest event of their season.

“One of the sisters [at the school] texted me and said, ‘We’re all praying for you and the storm.’ I texted her back asking ‘What storm?’” said team coach Liz Harlacher.

“We weren’t aware at all.”

La Reina High School’s mock trial team won the Empire Mock Trial Assn.'s Empire City Invitational world championship in Brooklyn on Monday for the second year in a row. The team had very little time to celebrate their big win before realizing what hit them.

Hurricane Sandy washed away chunks of the northeastern seaboard, killing scores of people and blacking out several communities.

The Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, where the competitors stayed and the championship was held, became the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters with generators, food and water.

What they didn’t have, though, was clean clothes.

“The day before Halloween, [an assistant coach] and I walked through the rain to a drugstore to buy candy for the girls,” Harlacher said. “We bought the team underwear and put that in the bags, too.”

The team of a dozen girls and their three coaches sought refuge at the hotel, along with 36 other teams competing in the championship. After the height of the storm, Harlacher and the assistant coaches shared a few emergency preparedness tips with the group. Demonstrating their skills for critical and fast thinking, the group came up with evacuation drills.

“With 800 teenagers staying in the same hotel, we made sure the girls knew to stay together and keep flat against the wall in case of a stampede,” Harlacher said.

The girls -- still riding high after their win -- weren’t as fazed by the drastic shift in events or the devastation happening in the nearby boroughs.

“I think everyone was so elated by the fact that we won again and we had an opportunity to have team bonding,” said 16-year-old Nisha Srinivasa, a junior. “No one was really worried because we weren’t really hit in Brooklyn.”

“I’ve lived in California all my life, so I haven’t been in a situation where we had to do any emergency preparedness.”

The team was bused to Washington, D.C., where they were hosted by one of Harlacher’s friends and caught a flight home Friday after a tour of the nation’s capital.


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Photo: La Reina High School's mock trial team celebrates their win with their coaches and trophy. Image courtesy of Liz Harlacher.