They left it on the ‘court’: PVPA students take 2nd in mock-trial competition

  • Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School’s 2021-2022 mock trial team with coaches Karin Kayser and Gary Hugett. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School’s 2021-2022 mock trial team seniors, from left to right, Oscar Cloutier-Potter, Sofia Getof-Scanlon and Galia Pakman Arrojo. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2022 11:01:47 AM
Modified: 3/25/2022 11:00:56 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — When coach Gary Huggett gives pep talks to his mock trial team at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School, he likes to use a wordplay on an old sports cliche.

“Leave it all on the court,” he says. And at this year’s MA Bar Association’s State Championship, the school’s team did exactly that.

PVPA’s mock trial team finished second in the state’s top competition, which took place on March 18. It’s a result that Huggett said shows the immense effort the students put into the competition, particularly a group of seniors who led the team.

“Those seniors really went above and beyond,” Huggett said. “They never stopped trying to improve.

That group of seniors included Oscar Cloutier-Potter of South Deerfield, Sofia Getof-Scanlon of Easthampton and Galia Pakman Arrojo of South Hadley.

The mock trial competition features students portraying attorneys and witnesses on either side of a legal case. And for PVPA, the top spots in the statewide tournament are familiar territory.

Ever since the charter school opened its doors in 1996, the PVPA mock trial team has finished first three times and reached the finals 12 times. Huggett said that they are the only school from either western or central Massachusetts to ever win a state mock trial title. He attributes that success to the bonds competitors form with one another on the team.

“I think one of the keys to our program here is the closeness of the team,” he said.

Huggett coaches the team with fellow faculty member Karin Kayser. The group also had help this season from attorney and former superior court judge Mary-Lou Rup, who volunteered to give guidance to the team.

PVPA defeated schools from Braintree, Lynn, Malden, Newton, Dover and Groton on their way to the finals. Ultimately they lost in the championship game to Malden Catholic High School.

Huggett said that PVPA’s squad and Malden Catholic’s team knew each other well, having scrimmaged previously.

“They were just a little bit stronger,” he said.

PVPA is a charter school that draws students from other public school districts in more than 60 cities and towns in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.
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