Palma High School student completes journalism hat-trick – Monterey Herald

SALINAS — Aryan Nahal, an avid math lover, believes that writing has always been one of his weaker skills.

But the senior from Palma High School completed an impressive hat-trick Saturday when he won first place honors in journalism at the National High School Mock Trial Championship.

Nahal won the county competition back in February and the state competition in March, the first student from Monterey County to win at both levels.

“Journalism wasn’t something that I thought I was going to do,” Nahal explained. “Writing has always been one of my weaker skills so that’s another reason I did journalism because I wanted to improve on that. I’ve always been more of a science and STEM person and my writing has always lacked a little.”

This year was Nahal’s second year in mock trial. After a friend convinced him to join the club, Nahal picked the journalist role because he thought it would be an interesting way to experience the case and improve his skills.

Mock trial is a high school competition that mimics a real trial. Students are placed on teams and must prepare both sides of a case – prosecution and defense – for every competition. This year, the trial prompt was the same for the county and state level. Teams presented People v. Cobey, the trial of Jamie Cobey, a horticulturist charged with homicide after placing a snake in his landlord’s mailbox.

Students in the courtroom journalism competition were tasked with writing an article covering the trial. As Nahal progressed from the county level, the time he had to write an article decreased. At the county level, the three competing journalists had an entire day to write an article. The state competition – which included more journalists, since every county was able to bring two students to the role – gave students only a few hours to write up their article. Students only had an hour and a half at the national competition.

Nahal said he was shocked when he won the county and state competition because he placed third in last year’s Monterey County competition.

“I was honestly just surprised, I didn’t really think I would get that far,” he admitted. “Just winning county itself was really nice, but winning state was really special.”

Nahal went on to represent California in the 2022 national courtroom journalism competition this month, where he beat four other students for the championship title.

Like last year, all the competitions this year were virtual. Nahal explained that this presented an added challenge to the competition, because it was harder to describe the way the trial unfolded in the courtroom.

Peter Funt, who created Monterey County’s journalism program and coaches its participants, prepared Nahal for the state and national competitions.

“We’ve had many talented people over the years, but no journalist has ever won at state, nor have we ever had two finish in the top three. Aryan and Maryam overcame the limitations of working by Zoom and did outstanding reporting,” Funt told the Herald in March.

Nahal is also involved in the yearbook club, plays tennis and is in rigorous advanced placement classes. He graduates this year but isn’t planning on studying journalism.

“I’m attending UCLA and I’m studying mathematics,” he said. “I’m not 100% sure of what I want to do after, but I’ve really liked math my whole life, so I wanted to continue learning that medium.”

Although he doesn’t plan on spending his career in journalism, Nahal says he will continue to write. He hopes to take some journalism classes or write for the university’s newspaper.

When asked if he still thinks writing is his weakest skill, Nahal paused.

“I’d definitely say that I’ve improved these last two years.”

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