Her sandals are Rainbows. Her tips are French. Her shorts are improbably yet un-self-consciously short. Her hair’s blondeness has been chemically emphasized and hangs to her lower back. Her eye makeup is smoky and her T-shirt baby blue. She is lovely and she is brilliant and she is terrifying. She is 17, I’ll learn, for another two days. I lean down the row of chairs and mutter to someone, “What’s her name?” and eyebrows lift knowingly.
Though it’s been a decade since I’ve seen one, and I’ve only been watching her for a few minutes, it’s clear: Summer is a mock trial star.
I’d silently entered and sat in the back of this hotel conference room as Summer was cross-examining a witness from the other team. His face is red and speech spitty. She paces back and forth as she delivers a question, then another, at him, like a tennis pro humoring a novice with a game of pickup. The back of her shirt says “California State Champions.” The team she captains, from Redlands High School east of San Bernardino, won California’s competition back in March. Now, two months of unending stress and preparation later, they’ve arrived at this year’s national competition, in Raleigh, North Carolina, hoping to do the impossible: Be the best high school mock trial team in the nation.