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Coach Returns, So Do Team’s Winning Ways : Schools: While David Tokofsky was away, the Marshall High mock trial team didn’t fare well. He’s back, and the team won the county championship.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the return of their acclaimed coach after a two-year hiatus, an 18-member Marshall High School team won the Los Angeles County Mock Trial championship last week, advancing to statewide competition.

Under the guidance of social studies teacher David Tokofsky, Marshall’s team defeated a squad from Long Beach’s Polytechnic High School--the third time in five years the Marshall team has won the county championships.

The Marshall team won the county title in fall, 1987, and placed second in the state championships the next spring. The next year, the team won the state finals.

But after those successes, Tokofsky stopped coaching to pursue a doctorate in education policy at USC. During the first year of his absence, Marshall’s team went to the county quarterfinals but did not place. The second year, the school did not have a team, he said.

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The state competition will be held in Sacramento in April, and Tokofsky said he hopes the Los Angeles Unified School District will pay for the team to make the trip.

Tokofsky, 31, first gained national attention when he led Marshall’s Academic Decathlon team to the national championship in spring, 1987, beating out many schools from wealthier suburban areas around the country.

But Tokofsky grew disillusioned with the academic decathlon program and decided to turn his attention instead to the mock trial competition sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

In the competition, teams of students play the roles of prosecutors and defense attorneys in hypothetical criminal cases. This year, the case involved charges of disorderly conduct and assault with a deadly weapon against a white security guard who wore a swastika on his uniform and attacked a black employee who accidentally tripped the alarm.

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Members of this year’s team attribute their success to intense practice. In the weeks leading up to the county competition, students practiced every day after school until nearly 10 at night, and also on weekends.

One student calculated that the team practiced 46 hours a week before the competition.

“All our parents and our friends say they miss us, and almost want us to lose so we can come back to them, but they understand,” said team member Catherine Borden, a junior. “But if they were to cut me loose and say, ‘No more mock trial,’ I would say, ‘Wait a minute what do we do now?’ ”

Tokofsky acknowledges that he “pushes the kids to the limit.”

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But he said he believes the “hard work pays off” by showing students how much they can accomplish if they apply themselves rigorously.

“They know something about themselves, about hard work and discipline . . . that no gratuitous comments from a parent or a teacher can instill in them,” he said.

Michael Lepie, a senior team member, said, “This is truly like the best experience that we have had in school thus far.”


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