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updated: 2/26/2011 7:25 PM

Elmhurst school tops at mock trial

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Members of Timothy Christian High School's varsity mock trial team earned more than bragging rights Saturday when they bested teams from 25 area high schools to take top honors at the Northwest Suburban Bar Association's annual Mock Trial Invitational.

Each of the Elmhurst school's nine varsity team members also received a $5,000 tuition waiver from Chicago's John Marshall Law School, which co-sponsored this year's competition, held in Rolling Meadows at the Cook County Third Municipal District courthouse. The waivers, valid until 2031, will be available to students who graduate college and enroll at John Marshall Law School.

Members of Highland Park High School's second place team receive $3,000 each in tuition waivers while members of Mundelein High School's third place team will each receive $2,000 in tuition waivers.

John Marshall has provided partial tuition waivers through a variety of programs for eight years. But this marks the first time the school has provided them to the third district.

Taylor Hoogendoorn, a senior at the Elmhurst high school, called it "an added benefit."

"I definitely have plans to go to law school, so maybe it will come into play," said the 18-year-old Westmont resident, who says participating in mock trial for four years helped him develop self-confidence and become a better public speaker.

"Mock trial competition gives you an opportunity to think on your feet and use analytical skills," he said, adding that even with months of preparation, "once you get in there, there's no way to tell what will happen."

Timothy Christian has won the NWSBA competition several times. Last year, the school finished third. Last week, it took first place in a DuPage County tournament and next week the team heads to Springfield for the state competition.

"That's the biggest prize of them all," said coach Scott Roelofs. "That winner goes to nationals."

Timothy Christian has competed in the national tournament six times since 1998, finishing in the top six three times, said Roelofs who has coached the team since the early 1980s.

"There is a tradition. Everyone wants to uphold that tradition and do well," Roelofs said. The team attracts "highly motivated, intelligent" students and includes four national merit finalists.

"The hardest thing is to get kids who can think on their feet," he said. "You have to be able to adjust and adapt."

Preparations for the tournaments began in September and require a commitment from students who often are also involved in other extracurricular activities, Roelofs said.

Abigail Canfield, a member of the team for four years, says it's worth it.

"It takes up a ton of time, but I love it," said Canfield, 17. "I love being in court and competing against other teams."