Houston High School students, from left, Elizabeth Harris, Sammy Garrett, Bailey Earp and Shelby Cremer compete during the 2014 Constitution Project. The group of journalists topped teams from Logan-Rogersville, West Plains and Nixa in the regional competition. 

Houston High School narrowly missed knocking off the defending champion of the annual Constitution Project.

The two-week statewide competition concluded Monday with a pair of mock murder trials at the Texas County Justice Center. Combined with the previous week’s mock crime in Springfield, Logan-Rogersville High School edged HHS by two points to advance in Region 1. Nixa and West Plains were also part of the region.

Logan-Rogersville, which won the first-ever statewide competition last year, will compete in a four-team final round Nov. 12 in Jefferson City.

“Our group of students made Houston proud by the way they performed,” said Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell, who mentored the CSI students. “Finishing second against three larger schools is quite impressive.”

Houston’s journalism team topped its counterparts in the three-part competition that also features students playing the roles of police officers and attorneys. The four students –– seniors Elizabeth Harris and Bailey Earp and juniors Sammy Garrett and Shelby Cremer –– produced newspaper stories and video reports of both the mock crime and trial.

The media team was under the direction of Houston Herald editor Jeff McNiell.

“These girls are a very hard-working and talented group,” McNiell said. “We crammed many years of studying and journalism knowledge into just a few weeks of training. The quality of work they produced on a one-hour deadline under the stress of competition was remarkably good.”

On Monday, Houston and Logan-Rogersville squared off in the first trial that included testimonies from CSI students who collected evidence from the scene. Houston’s team of lawyers acting as the prosecution was trained by local attorney Kim Lowe.

Nixa faced West Plains in the second trial before the day concluded with Judge Doug Gaston gathered four competing schools for closing ceremonies and the announcement of Logan-Rogersville edging Houston.

The Constitution Project, created by Gaston is 2011, will conclude its season year of statewide competition with next month’s finals. Teams in the final will consist of winners from the three regions and a “wild card” team made up of the best CSI, journalism and attorney teams from the rest of the 12-team field. Only the three regional winners are eligible for the state title.

Three students from each school district were recognized for their efforts during the regional competition. Harris (journalism), Kolby Walker (CSI) and Olivia Woosley (lawyers) were selected from Houston.

To view more photos from the Constitution Project trial proceedings, click this link:


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