West Morris Mendham High School Mock Trial Team Honored 

By Steve Sears

Following a very successful season, the West Morris Mendham (WMM) High School Mock Trial team was honored on May 3 as part of the Morris County Law Day ceremonies.

WMM this year was both the Northern New Jersey Regional as well as Morris County Tournament champions. The team defeated Delbarton in the county finals, and Mainland Regional in the state semi-finals before falling to Princeton Day School in the state title match on March 20.

Eric Heditsch, a teacher at WMM, has also served as head coach of the Mock Trial team for 24 years, and William Connelly has been the team’s attorney-coach for the past 20 years. Heditsch said of the ceremony, “It was nice for the team to be honored at the Law Day ceremony by Judge (Stuart A.) Minkowitz and the Morris County Bar Association. The respect, admiration, and kind words from all the county and state dignitaries was appreciated by the team.”

In all, over 200 high schools and 3000 students from throughout New Jersey participated in the state competition, which makes West Morris Mendham’s accomplishment that much more impressive.

The current and past WMM Mock Trial teams are no strangers to success. This year’s Morris County championship was the school’s 18th consecutive, and the Northern New Jersey Regional championship was its 11th in the past 15 years. WMM has won the New Jersey State Championship six times.

Heditsch lauded the 2023 team. “This year’s team was exceptionally committed and hardworking,” he states. “They were tested with strong competition in both the county and state tournaments, and they met the challenge each and every trial. We had a cohesive group which worked really well together, and most impressive was their desire to continually improve. I am proud of what the team accomplished, but it is also nice to see how close they have become as teammates and friends throughout the long season. Overall, this team was as strong as any we have had in this incredible run over so many years.”

The WMM Mock Trail Plaintiff team included Ashley Cespedes (attorney), junior; Maggie Lee (attorney), senior; Jaira Pierre-Louis (witness), junior; Olivia Piacenti (witness), sophomore; and Anjan Balakrishnan (witness), senior. The Defense side was represented by Campbell Portland (attorney), junior; Balakrishnan (attorney); Hanna Kutlu (witness), senior; Zadie Weaver (witness), junior; and Lee (witness).

Heditsch recognizes that the WMM Mock Trial team has continued to make great strides in his almost quarter century at the helm. “I am obviously very happy with the continued development of the Mock Trial program at Mendham,” he says. “It has become an important part of our school.  Our teams of the past have set an incredibly high bar, and each year the challenge is to find students with the skills, interest, and motivation to try and maintain and surpass that standard.”

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