Agathos Classical School’s mock trial team wins national title
Columbia’a Agathos Classical School may be small but its students are taking home a national championship, the final step in fulfilling a big dream.
At the University of Georgia in Athens, the Agathos students surpassed the competition to take home the National High School Mock Trial Championship, the first national title for the young program at the school of less than 300 students.
“We are in complete shock and disbelief that we were able to do this in such a short time in such a small school,” said Cory Ricci, coach and Columbia attorney. “Every year that we have competed, we have done better than the year before.”
The national title adds a substantial notch on the team’s belt which includes two state championships.
Ricci and fellow local attorney Jason Whatley launched the program four years ago, and now the high school freshmen who helped spearhead the new team have taken home the national title.
“This is a bittersweet year but a wonderful way to end,” Whatley said. “It’s surreal. These kids are amazing. These are some of the hardest working kids I have heard of. It is easy to look good as a coach when you have a team like this to work with. Their endurance was tested. These are Godly young men and women who are humble and hardworking.
Luke Worsham, a powerhouse teammate who graduated from the school last year, returned to help coach the team to the championship title.
“There is a love and a bond with these kids that is really special,” Whatley said. “We were not supposed to compete on this level. For our kids to come in from a tiny school, it is amazing. It is such a beautiful thing.”
During the weekend tournament, the young Columbia lawyers beat out students from North Dakota, Illinois, Massachusetts, Georgia and then a championship round against Nebraska, losing only a single ballot in the entire competition.
With 15 jurors in the final round, the Maury County team won the unanimous approval of the entire panel in an unprecedented victory.
“We faced a vast expanse of diversity,” Ricci said. “It was a pretty decisive victory. We could not be more proud of these kids.”
The young lawyers of state champion teams from 46 states and territories, as well as South Korea, were all competing at the university for the national title.
“I am still processing,” said Sam Whatley, the team’s captain, while he and his teammates were riding back from Athens. “It is surreal. It is unprecedented. I feel honored to be able to represent the people of Columbia. I think the world of my teammates. We are still trying to take it all in. It is an honor to have been able to do this.”
He says participating in the program has opened a new horizon of possibilities for both himself and his teammates.
“I realize that this time in my life, I think I am able to learn from what God has given me,” the young Whatley continued. “This program has developed my ability to think on my feet. Now I can go before a room of 500 people and speak for 45 minutes with five minutes of preparation.
Whatley says he plans to pursue a career in medicine, following the guidance of his father, one of his coaches, who he says has advised him to find a path other than the courtroom.
Fellow senior Josiah Burns served as an attorney on the championship team.
“We have always had this mindset that we want to win state and then a national title,” Burns told The Daily Herald. “It is great to see all the hard work. It is a great testament to the school and everyone on the team. I think it is so cool that a small school in Columbia can have such a big impact on the rest of the country.”
Fellow team attorney Ella Seago, a junior, spoke with excitement for the victory.
“It was such a great experience,” Seago said. “We have played some really wonderful teams. Everyone has been preparing and supporting each other.