Kalamazoo Central High School's mock trial team got word at 3 p.m. Tuesday that they'll be representing Michigan in the national tournament.
By 5 p.m., the students were at a practice session.
It's an exciting turn of events for the team, which came in second to Clarkston High School in the March 23 state tournament. As the state champion team, Clarkston Michigan's spot at the national contest.
But Clarkston has to bow out. "They have too many students who had a conflict with (International Baccalaureate) testing," said Francis Bilancio, the team's head coach.
The national tournament is May 10-11 in Indianapolis.
This is far from the first time that Kalamazoo Central is going to nationals.
The team has won 17 state titles since it was formed in 1986, and the most recent state title was in 2009. The team won the national championship in 1996 and placed second in the nation for three consecutive years, 2006-08.
"I'm just thrilled for the students," Bilancio said.
He said that he's especially excited because the nobody on the current team has been to the national tournament before and "once you go there, it gives you stronger drive" to do well the next year and return.
Bilancio heard last week that Clarksville might not be able to compete in Indianapolis, although "it was a long-shot scenario," he said.
Still, that gave him the chance to develop a "ground game" if Kalamazoo Central got the nod. Once he got the official word Tuesday afternoon, he said, there were a flurry of phone calls and emails and students had a evening practice session.
"The students really rallied," he said.
He said that K-Central should be a worthy competitor at the national tournament.
In the state championship round on March 23, one judge gave more points to Kalamazoo and two judges gave their ballots to Clarkston. But Kalamazoo lost the two ballots by only one point in each case and overall, Kalamazoo had more points.
"We won on points, but it's the ballots that count," Bilancio said. "It could have gone either way."
Bilancio said his team is "tremendously prepared" for national competition.
"Our students have worked so hard and this is a tremendous payoff," he said. "I'm really excited, especially for the kids."
The Kalamazoo Central team is comprised of seniors Jane Fisher and Sabrina Hirsch; juniors Amanda Sidwell, Olivia Hodge, Alana Labelle-Hahn and Karanjit Sohi; sophomores Isaac Bertman, Sarah Ghazal, Abujit Rai and Katherine McKibbon, and freshman Zjalyn Carter.
In addition to Bilancio, the team is coached by Becket Jones, lead attorney coach; James Liggins Jr., attorney adviser coach, and assistant coaches Gavin Thole and Maggie Teutsch. Liggins, Thole and Teutsch are both former K-Central mock trial members.