RHINELANDER - Teams at the mock trial state competition know Rhinelander High School is the team to beat. The team has recorded one national win and 10 top 10 national finishes since the program started in 1983. Their success all came under coach Kathy Vick-Martini. But when she announced her retirement earlier this year, the school knew they had to find someone to take over the program.
Vick-Martini created a mock trial dynasty at Rhinelander High School.
"In 31 years we've had 17 state championships, 31 consecutive regional championships," said Rhinelander High School Principal David Ditzler.
So when Vick-Martini retired as the mock trial coach last year, the school knew it would be tough to lose her.
"After all of the success that Coach Vick has had in mock trial, those are big shoes to fill," said Activities Director Brian Paulson.
After searching for a replacement, school administrators came up short. They weren't able to find a new coach.
But Vick-Martini wasn't going to let the program die.
"I started hearing from the kids and they didn't know of anyone who had been hired as the new coach, and they were concerned because they wanted the program to continue," said Vick-Martini.
So she decided to come out of retirement for a victory lap as head coach.
"It tore me up actually, I had a lot of trouble processing it and I ultimately decided in all fairness to them, especially the seniors, that I should come back," said Vick-Martini.
Also coming out of retirement is volunteer Attorney Coach Ann Eshelman.
"It's between 15 and 20 years since I've been and actual coach," said Eshelman.
Eshelman has also been involved since the team's inception. When she heard the program needed help, she gladly stepped in to help Vick-Martini.
"We still have Mrs. Martini, even though she won't say so, is the reason why there is a 31-year record at the regional tournament," said Eshelman.
But Vick-Martini is quick to deflect credit for the team's success.
"I've had excellent help from the legal community and you're as good as the legal help you get. But I've also had terrific students to work with, just hardworking, dependable, poised, talented," said Vick-Martini.
After coming out of retirement once, she says she won't be doing it again next year.
"It's for sure my last year, I'm not going to flunk retirement twice," said Vick-Martini.
But together, Vick-Martini and Eshelman are ready to go out with a bang.
"I'd say that we're as strong a candidate as there is in the entire country," said Eshelman.
Competitions start in January. The regional tournament in February and the state competition is in March.