Category: Feature

End of an Era: Hollwedel Steps Away from the Sideline

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photo contributed by: Wingspan Archives

When Chad Hollwedel switched his major from engineering to education, he knew that, wherever he taught, he wanted to have an impact on the school community beyond the classroom. With sports being a major part of his youth, he also knew that he wanted to coach.

However, what the 26-year-old Hollwedel didn’t know when he first started teaching at Centennial in 1997 was just how impactful his coaching would be. He didn’t know that he would help lead the basketball program to ten straight winning seasons. He didn’t know that his teams’ success would bring an entire school community together. He didn’t know that in 2015, with all of Centennial behind its back, his team would win the first boys basketball state title in school history. He didn’t know that his coaching would continue to influence and inspire his players years after they graduated. Now, twenty-two years later, with his coaching career finally coming to an end, Hollwedel knows. And so does Centennial.

When he first arrived at Centennial, Hollwedel wasted no time getting involved. In 1997, he joined the basketball program as an assistant for the Junior Varsity (JV) team. Hollwedel worked his way up the coaching ladder, serving as a Varsity assistant under head coach Jim Hill before taking over as head coach of the Junior Varsity team in the 2000–01 season. When Hill stepped down after the 2006–07 season, he felt confident leaving the program in the hands of Hollwedel.

Over the next twelve years, Hollwedel turned a historically inconsistent program into a model of consistency. After beginning his tenure with two losing seasons, Hollwedel led Centennial to ten straight winning seasons. His 193 career wins include three regional titles and one state championship.

Behind Hollwedel’s extraordinary success was his unwavering passion for the game. For twenty-two years, he devoted his life to the Centennial basketball program. For every hour of game the public watches, there are hours upon hours of practice to coach, meetings to hold, and film to watch. Factor in his off-season responsibilities and it’s easy to understand why, as Hollwedel put it, “Everything I did in my spare time was really [at Centennial].”

And while Hollwedel’s passion was evident in the amount of time he devoted to the program, it was how he coached in that time, and how much the program meant to him, which truly gave a sense of his incredible ardor.

Ben Goldsmith, a 2012 Centennial graduate, played for Hollwedel on the 2011 and 2012 regional championship teams.  In Goldsmith’s eyes, Hollwedel’s greatest skill was the passionate attitude he coached with.

“He never had an off day,” Goldsmith recalled. “Whether it was an early Saturday morning practice or over holiday break, Hollwedel brought an energy to the gym.”

This energy —a general enthusiasm for the game and a demand for excellence— was contagious.

“It was easy to play our hearts out and enjoy doing it,” explained Goldsmith, “because we had a coach who was coaching his heart out and enjoying it too.”

For many of Hollwedel’s teams, the spirited, team-oriented culture which he developed translated into on-the-court success. In Goldsmith’s junior year, Hollwedel led Centennial past the regional finals and into the state final for the first time in school history. And although the 56–44 loss to Milford Mill in the championship hurt, making it there in the first place was an extremely rewarding accomplishment for Hollwedel.

The following year, Centennial won the regional title again and made it to the state tournament for the second year in a row. Having already been there and lost, Hollwedel felt that Centennial had to win this time. So when they came back empty-handed again —this time losing to Thomas Stone in the semi-final— there was a much greater feeling of failure for Hollwedel.

“That was personally devastating at the time,” he recalled. “I was just hoping to be able to get back.”

Three years later, after posting a 20–2 regular season record and on the heels of a dramatic win at the buzzer over River Hill in the regional final, Centennial got back. And this time, with the 2012 semi-final loss still weighing heavily on his shoulders, Hollwedel felt an even greater sense of urgency to win.

Nevertheless, he entered the state tournament at ease, confident that his team would finish what his 2011 team had started.

“After [the buzzer beater], I just felt like we were going to do it. Whether I had the right to believe we were going to do it or not, I believed we were going to.”

Centennial cruised past C. Milton Wright 75–61 in the semi-final, setting up a showdown with Westlake in the state championship. It’s a game which, one may argue, epitomized Hollwedel’s career.

Hundreds of fans greeted the Centennial players and coaches as they walked onto the Xfinity Center court before the game.

“It just looked like this mountain of red,” described Hollwedel. “It was overwhelming how many people were there.”

Making up that mountain were students, parents, teachers, alumni, and future Eagles– an entire community brought together by one basketball team. Hollwedel had built something which they all found hope in together, took pride in together, and celebrated together. From when the clock started ticking till the sound of the final buzzer, his team united them as Eagles.

Those Eagles cheered on, as loud and spirited as ever. Even as the two teams battled back and forth over the first three quarters, Hollwedel and Centennial never wavered. Then, with eight minutes left to decide whether they would make history or go home devastated, Centennial broke through.

Over the final quarter, Centennial outscored Westlake 20–9. As the clock hit 0:00, sealing a 57–43 win and the first state title in school history, the mountain of red erupted into a thunderous roar.

Shortly after the game ended, the announcer called up each of the players one-by-one to receive a plaque. As Hollwedel looked back on that moment a few weeks ago, the emotions of that day, the extraordinary significance of that win to him, his players, and the community, suddenly came flooding back.

“It was the happiest and most rewarding feeling that I’ve had as a coach,” he said, holding back tears. He searched for the right words to match the magic of that moment but could not find any. His voice shaky, all he could manage was “It was indescribable.”

When it was his turn to receive the state championship trophy, and the announcer officially pronounced the Eagles as Class 3A State Champions, Hollwedel turned and hoisted it triumphantly toward the Centennial crowd. Once again, they erupted in celebration.

In a way, that trophy was theirs as much as it was his. For years, the program and the community had fed off of and strengthened each other. Now, Hollwedel had brought the ultimate prize back to the community which put him there.

“It was truly a beautiful thing to witness,” remembered Isaiah White, a senior on the 2014–15 team. “Us playing as a team, and then him turning and pumping his fist into the crowd yelling ‘Let’s go!’”

It was not only in the community, however, that Hollwedel’s passionate coaching made a difference. It was in his players as well.

White, for instance, will never forget Hollwedel’s saying, “1–0.” One of Hollwedel’s points of emphasis, it meant players should focus on one game at a time rather than the season as a whole.

“It’s something that’s stuck with me throughout other aspects of my life,” he explained, “reminding me only to take care of what I can control, and to focus on the task at hand.”

After graduating from Centennial in 2015, White went on to play Division 1 basketball at the University of Maine. In addition to teaching him intangible lessons, White credits Hollwedel with coaching him the fundamentals and laying the foundation he needed to take the next step at the college level.

“I know for a fact that he helped get me where I am today,” concluded White.

Like White, Goldsmith also played basketball collegiately after graduating from Centennial. Now, Goldsmith is finishing his second year teaching at Leonardtown Middle School and coaching basketball at Leonardtown High School. Goldsmith says that without Hollwedel, he would have never chosen this career path.

“I try to model what I do after what Coach did at Centennial,” said Goldsmith. He aspires to develop a program at Leonardtown built on teamwork and determination just like Hollwedel did at Centennial.

As Goldsmith walks in the footsteps of Hollwedel, he ensures that Hollwedel’s message and attitude will continue to impact players and communities long after his retirement from coaching. His influence now extends beyond Centennial; he has forever changed the lives of his players and they are eager to have that same effect on others.

This year, Hollwedel is stepping away from the Centennial program. The possibility had been on his mind for years. After the 2018–19 season ended in March, Hollwedel spent time reflecting and ultimately decided that now was the right time.

Most importantly, Hollwedel felt that he was having trouble maintaining the passionate energy he believes is needed to run the program.  He was a high energy coach who no longer had a high level of energy.

Also weighing into his decision was the opportunity to spend more time focusing on his family. His daughter, Emily, plays volleyball at Centennial and on a club team in the offseason. His son, Ryan, is planning on playing basketball at Hood College this winter.  He is looking forward to spending more time watching and enjoying both of their athletic careers.

“I definitely just want to be a dad,” he explained.

While Hollwedel admits that it will be “extremely hard” to step away from something that has played such an important role in his life for the past twenty-two years, he doesn’t feel hesitant about his decision.

Hollwedel expects that stepping away from the basketball program will be similar to when he stepped away from coaching football. He noted that, even though Friday nights were tough for him at first, “It didn’t last very long. I still knew that I could enjoy it without being on the other side of the fence.”

With that being said, there are certainly some aspects of coaching that Hollwedel will miss. He says that the packed crowds, the thrill and emotion of the game, and the opportunity to grow relationships with his players all come to his mind.

In his twenty-two years at Centennial, coaching has become part of Chad Hollwedel’s identity. Visit him on any given day and you’ll likely find him in a Centennial basketball t-shirt, teaching in a classroom whose walls are lined with pictures and newspaper clippings of the program he helped build. He says he’ll miss having that as part of his identity, miss people saying “Hey, Coach” in the hallway. In a few years, he expects that there’ll be kids who never even knew he coached. And for an ordinary coach, that may be true. But Hollwedel’s coaching career was bigger than basketball. In turning the Centennial basketball program into a consistent winner, Hollwedel brought an entire community together. Through his passion and leadership, he made a difference in, often even changed, the lives of countless players. And so, even as Hollwedel steps away from the sideline, to all of those people whose lives he touched, whether they were part of the program or cheering it on, he will always be “Coach.”

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This article is featured in the 2019 Takeover Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Principal Cynthia Dillon Reflects on Her First Year

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photo: Eliza Andrew

In a school of 1,612 students, a single face passes by new principal Cynthia Dillon. She says hello, just as the student smiles with a welcoming invitation to their club event later in the week. With a beaming look she says, yes, of course!

Dillon, after almost 180 days of being principal of Centennial High School, has attended nearly every student event possible: from band concerts, to It’s Academic tournaments, art galleries, sports games, and Worldfest. She has devoted the majority of her time here to the students– their individual needs, requests, and ideas.

“The hard part was when a kid would say to me in the hallway, ‘Hey, can you come to this tonight?’ I kind of felt like I couldn’t say no… my job is to be here for you and serve you,” Dillon assured. “If there’s a kid who wants you to come, you’re there.”

The average high schooler, as Dillon has noticed, yearns for change. She is fascinated by Centennial’s students, who yearn for school inclusion, safety, and success.

Such student-driven change can only make for an exciting, yet overwhelming year. As principal, handling such drive can become a challenge.

With only seven hours in a school day, and an exponential number of people to oversee, Dillon recognizes the powerful position she holds, and how different it is from being principal of a middle school.

“I quickly figured out what I do, because there are twice as many of you, twice as many teachers, twice as many parents, but I still have the same 7-hour day,” said Dillon. “So when you guys come to my door, I’m stopping what I’m doing.”

Out of the plethora of memorable moments from the past school year, the ones that stuck out most to Dillon were the individual, intimate conversations with students. The most seemingly insignificant and trivial responses may last a lifetime.

Despite these incredible moments, not all moments have been positive. Such an intensive job can only come with extreme highs and lows, times in which school conflicts feel endless, and parking permits may never be resolved.

“Another thing I care about is equity,” said Dillon. “If we take the parking for example, we asked every high school in the county, what is your process, how do you issue permits?”

In the heights of such student, teacher, or parent frustration, Dillon must sit back and understand her place.

“The hardest thing in the first year in any assignment is stopping and watching. So what I think it should be, may not be what it is here, and just because it’s not what I think it should be doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” said Dillon. “It’s just different.”

Upon walking through the expansive front doors of Centennial High School, Dillon immediately felt a wave of anxiety among the students. What formerly had been only warnings of the competitive nature became reality within an instant. Centennial’s high-achieving reputation does not exist without truth, as she discovered.  Students from ages 14 to 18 crowd the halls in discussion of their grades, SAT scores, AP test results, and anxieties.

“Certain students stress themselves out trying to achieve at such high levels that it’s emotionally unhealthy. I think a big part of this issue stems from students being reticent to talk about their stress.”

Dillon has appreciated every second she has spent in Centennial, learning and understanding the school’s community. Centennial, as she put it, is like no other. Especially different from that of middle schools, high schoolers possess an interest in the community’s well being. Often taken aback by the intensity of student passion, Dillon appreciates student conversation.

“All of a sudden, my primary target customers [students] are advocating for themselves, and coming to the door, whereas middle schoolers will very rarely seek you out.”

In Dillon’s past experience as a middle school principal of 12 years, she learned lessons she thought would be applicable to this new job, but soon realized otherwise. The most significant lessons, recalled Dillon, came from recognizing there was a lot to learn.

“A couple times this year I’ve made decisions like a middle school principal and not a high school principal… and didn’t go and say hey, this is what I’d like to see, how can we make it happen,” Dillon stated. “Once or twice I ruffled some feathers unintentionally.”

In just a year’s time, a lot has changed in Centennial. Most of all, it may be Dillon’s view of her position, and the students who make it possible. An experience many high schoolers can describe as the best of times, and the worst of times, is a year to remember- as Dillon’s legacy has only just begun.

Most importantly, to Dillon, of course, is her relationship with the students. “I think the role of the principal is to serve,” she says.

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This article is featured in the 2019 Takeover Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Students’ Summer Bucket List

Words & Photos: Noorie Kazmi, Keith Hitzelberger, Adithi Soogoor

What are our Centennial Eagles doing after school ends? We hunted down three students to find out their plans for summer break.

Darren DeGroff

Freshman

”Over the summer, I will be building a PC in order to stream League of Legends on Twitch. I will be spending a week in Siesta Key, Florida with my family during July. In the downtime of the summer I will be at the pool with my friends. I might pretend to study a little, but in all likelihood I will take it easy this summer and try to rewind.”


Praagna Kashyap

Sophomore

“I’m gonna be on a research team studying neuroscience.” She, like any other Centennial student, will “study for SATs because I have to do that.”

 

Josh Kim

Junior

“I will be working as a private tutor during the summer as well as studying for the SAT on August 25th. I will also be volunteering with my church and I am going to Philly for five days.”

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

 

Jocelyn Mathew Places Third in International Competition

Words: Thomas Hitt

The International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) took place from May 12 to 17 in Phoenix, Arizona. The event hosted about 1,800 kids from 75 countries. Jocelyn Mathew, a Centennial senior and 2019 graduate, competed in the category of Cellular Biology in the subgroup of Cellular Immunology.

Projects ranged from sunglasses that reduce glare to microscopes that detect cancer. Mathew said she was “blown away by the caliber of the projects” as they were “innovative and incredible.”

“When walking into the big competition hall where they display projects, I felt super grateful to be a part of it!” Mathew said.

Intelligent, creative and hardworking student researchers competed in the ISEF competition. India, Ukraine, South Africa, and Brazil are just a few of the native countries of the students that Mathew got to meet at the event.

The concept of one of Mathew’s opponents focused on better understanding neurodegeneration, when the function of neurons is lost. Mathew considered the event more of a learning experience as opposed to a competition.

When it came around to the awards ceremony, Mathew won third place and a trip to the International Science Summer Institute (ISSI).

“Overall, it was an invaluable experience,” said Matthew. “I learned a lot, got to network with the next generation of scientific leaders, and had a ton of fun!”

Photo Contributed by ISEF

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Brandon Du and Krystal Wu play with the Columbia Orchestra

Words: Sarah Paz

On Saturday, May 18, Centennial freshmen Brandon Du and Krystal Wu, winners of the Columbia Orchestra Young Artist Competition, played with the Columbia Orchestra and vocalist Kelli Young at the Jim Rouse Theatre. Wu played the clarinet while Du played the violin.

Du, who has previously played in the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra and the National Chambers, said, “the performance went well… Overall, I think the concert was very well organized and all the soloists were amazing, of course.”

The concert, called The Rite of Spring, featured “Symphony No. 2” by Carlos Chávez, “Sensemayá” by Silvestre Revueltas, “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky, and “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” by Heitor Villa-Lobos.

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Cosining Off: Math Teacher Mr. Coe Retires

Words: Delanie Tucker

Photo: Eliza Andrew

For the past 37 years at Centennial High School, students have walked the halls, whispering about a certain class and how its teacher never fails to match his shoes to his outfit.

Math teacher Alan Coe is commonly known for his coordinating clothes, sarcasm, and, more often than not, strictness in the classroom.

It’s no secret that his class is harder than most, but at the end of the day, his students have nothing but positive things to say about their experiences in his class and, more specifically, their bittersweet feelings towards his retirement.

“While the material was rigorous and often confusing, Coe was always very dedicated to helping students understand the material,” junior Piper Berry commented. “He would always answer my millions of questions until I understood the concept.”

Berry had Coe for two years, and during that time he left quite the impression.

“Coe taught me that I am capable of way more than I think I am. He always encouraged me to try my best and keep going when I was stuck,” Berry stated. “Even when I would doubt myself he would push me to keep trying and believe I could do it instead of giving up.”

Sophomore Kiran Vepa said, “It was a hard class, sure, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It sucks that he’s leaving, though, because he made an impact on so many people and now no one else will get to experience that.”

Prior to working at Centennial, Coe studied at Buffalo State College in New York, majoring in teaching and minoring in mathematics.

Out of college, he did three years of teaching in Virginia and Southern Maryland, before settling in Howard County.

Centennial was a new environment for everyone involved, as it was a fairly new school, but Coe adjusted easily and enjoyed the spirited atmosphere the school upheld.

“In the first 15 or 20 years of being here there was a whole lot of school spirit, and it wasn’t just around the academics,” Coe stated. “It was a sports-oriented school. This school was huge in athletics.”

Another thing Coe has grown to admire about Centennial is what it teaches.

“[Centennial is] driven to make sure students are ready for everything that they are going to do,” Coe said. “Whether they go into college or go into a career, it really does try and get them ready for the next step.”

As for his own impact on Centennial, he believes he has done well to teach his students independence, and that they will carry that skill with them as they finish high school and move into college.

According to Coe, he taught them “to be able to think on their own. To not have to rely on someone else to tell them exactly what to do.”

While Alan Coe has been making a difference at Centennial for a long time, he is not the only one who will leave a lasting impact on the school. His daughter, Kayleigh Coe, is another Eagle who will be leaving at the end of this school year.

As a freshman at Centennial, Kayleigh was more out of the loop than most. She went to a middle school with kids that would go to Mount Hebron High School, which is where she would have gone had her father not been a teacher at CHS.

“At first, I was hesitant because I was leaving all my friends,” Coe stated. “However, I realized that I was going to have an opportunity to make new ones.”

Despite her unfamiliarity with her fellow classmates, the school itself was nothing new, as she “grew up here and scootered around the hallways.”

“I will definitely miss that once I graduate and my dad retires.”

Another thing Kayleigh will miss as she moves on to college is her English teacher, Sara Duran.

“[Duran] has taught me so much in the two years that I have had her,” Coe expressed. “She inspires me almost every day to try and never give up.”

Similarly, Duran expressed her feelings on having Kayleigh as a student, and how her presence in the classroom made a difference.

“Kayleigh was a very dedicated student and constantly came to class prepared,” Duran commented. “She was a pleasure to have in class both years and I know that my class would have been a completely different place had she not been there.”

Regardless of her father being a teacher, Coe’s academic success was due to her own motivation and determination to work hard in the classroom.

She explained that her parents never had to push her in school, and her father’s presence in the school hardly affected her work rate.

“I don’t think going to my dad’s school made me try harder,” Kayleigh Coe said. “I already try hard in all of my classes.”

Coe continued by saying, “My parents don’t really put any pressure on me with grades because I already put enough pressure on myself.”

This consistent work effort in school was awarded with an academic scholarship to West Virginia University.

Even though Alan Coe never really had to push his daughter, he was still there for her when she needed it.

“My dad has supported me through everything and I’m so lucky to have him,” Kayleigh Coe commented.

Alan Coe also said a few words about his daughter, explaining that in her years at Centennial he did, in fact, teach her.

“I taught her for only one year.”

And that she did teach him a thing or two.

“[Kayleigh taught me] patience,” Alan Coe laughed.

In their time at Centennial, both Coes will leave an impact on the people and place around them, one that will stick, even after they’re gone.

Likewise, Centennial, whether it be the people or the place itself, is leaving a lasting impression on the pair, teaching lessons that may not have been learned otherwise.

Kayleigh Coe, in particular, said that she’ll do well to remember what she learned as she moves out of high school and into the real world.

“One thing I’ve learned [at Centennial] is that no matter how hard things are at the time, you will always come out on the other side.”

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This article is featured in the 2019 Senior Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

The History of Centennial’s Senior Traditions

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photo: Zach Grable

On a late May night nearly 40 years ago, Centennial’s class of 1979 gathered in the auditorium. One by one they walked across the stage, received their diploma, and walked off into the next chapter of their lives. They left behind a school just like them– young and ambitious. They were both blank slates waiting to be filled with countless experiences and memories.

Now, 39 graduating classes and thousands of alumni later, Centennial is no longer the blank slate it used to be. Centennial has its own identity, its own culture, and its own traditions. For generations of seniors, these traditions have helped shape their time at Centennial. And while traditions like homecomings and Hebron games were enjoyed all four years, some of the most memorable and meaningful ones only came once. These senior-only traditions, some of which date all the way back to the Class of ‘79, have provided students with the chance to celebrate, reminisce, and enjoy their final year at Centennial.

The Senior Crab Feast, typically the first senior activity of every school year, took place for the first time on October 6, 1978– making it the first official senior activity in Centennial’s history. Although the menu has varied slightly, the event always kicks off senior year with a casual night of crabs and music with friends. Ever since it began, the overarching goal of the crab feast has remained the same: to help the senior class begin the year with a sense of unity.

According to Lisa Schoenbrodt, a member of the Class of 1979 Senior Board, the board originally decided to organize the crab feast because nearby schools, including those which Centennial’s newly-created student body came from, already hosted similar activities.

Following the crab feast, there is a lull in senior activities as winter sets in. By February, however, with every college application turned in and midterm completed, seniors begin to focus on their much anticipated graduation and the warm summer to follow. The Senior Luau, ironically held in chilly February, allows seniors to start getting in that summer mindset early with a Hawaiian themed night. Dressed in Hawaiian shirts and leis, seniors enjoy a laid-back, tropical atmosphere brought to life with music, dancing, and food.

Unlike the crab feast, the Luau didn’t begin with Centennial’s first senior class and hasn’t been held continuously since its beginning. In fact, it began with the Class of 1982, who, following a successful crab feast, wanted to host another “casual” event before graduation.

“Jimmy Buffett was popular, the Beach Boys would play at the Washington Monument each Fourth of July, so, we figured, why not squeeze one more ‘summer’ event into the year,” recalled Karen Donegan, president of the 1982 Senior Board.

Six years later, in 1988, the senior board decided to replace the Luau with a fancier class night. The Luau returned the next year before again disappearing in 1993.

While the Luau and Crab Feast serve as more relaxed events for seniors, prom is a different story. Although Centennial’s prom is open to both juniors and seniors, senior year prom, typically seen as a sort of “last ride” for students with graduation fast approaching, takes on added significance.

When Centennial opened as a new school for the 1977-78 school year, there was no senior class, so a junior-only prom was held. Centennial’s first junior-senior prom came a year later, on May 12, 1979, at the Kittamaquandi Room by Lake Kittamaquandi in Columbia. Since then, many more locations, including the Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore Grand, M&T Bank Stadium, and Martin’s West, have played host to Centennial’s prom.

Outside of the venue, the differences between the prom of today and the prom of the past are limited. Look through the the prom pages of Centennial’s forty-one yearbooks and you’ll start to find that the forty-one different stories, each with their own characters, their own settings, are really just the same story told by forty-one different classes of Centennial students. It’s a story of corsages, of boutonnieres, of dresses, of tuxedos, of limos, of hours of hectic preparation and weeks of nervous anticipation, all coming together, along with countless Centennial couples and friends, for one night full of grandeur and splendor.

And when prom ends, whether it be at 1:00am as it did in 1979, or 11:00pm  as it did in 2019, seniors still have one more night to look forward to spending together before their graduation. Class night, as the name suggests, gives the whole senior class one last chance to celebrate how far they’ve come and reminisce over the years they’ve spent together.

Centennial’s first class night, held just two days before the graduation of Centennial’s first class, took place at La Fontaine Bleue, an event venue in Glen Burnie. The event, slightly more formal than current class nights, featured dancing to live music, a dinner buffet, and reading of seniors’ wills.

Seniors in the class of 1979 gather for the first
ever crab feast. Photo contributed by: Eyrie

Up until the mid 2000s, class nights were mainly held at local hotels or other event venues, such as Martin’s West. In recent years, however, more classes have chosen to take the party from the dancefloor to the deck, with cruises becoming popular alternatives to traditional dances.

The theme that seems to emerge from every senior event, and in particular class night, is unity. As graduation draws near, students begin to realize how ingrained their classmates have been in their lives over the past four, seven, sometimes twelve years. And while yearbooks and pictures can ensure the memories they made and the friendships they forged are never forgotten, the time they spent together, the time which once seemed limitless, is now ever so finite.

Most of Centennial’s first class, composed entirely of students uprooted from their original high schools after their sophomore year, came from Mount Hebron, with a smaller portion coming from other feeder schools. Unsurprisingly, becoming a unified class wasn’t so easy.

“We had to really rally our class to come to some events, like dances,” remembered Schoenbrodt. “It took some time for our class to become a cohesive unit.”

Yet even for the Class of 1979, as the 1978-79 edition of Eyrie wrote, “What particularly characterized Class Night was the harmony which surfaced among such a diverse senior class.”

Outside of the longstanding senior traditions at Centennial, many other senior events and activities have come and gone since 1978. In the 1970s and 80s, some of Centennial’s senior classes took trips to Great Adventure amusement park in New Jersey. The Class of 1993 held a Senior Fiesta featuring a variety of festively dressed seniors. The Class of 1994 hosted a Toga Dance complete with prizes for the most creative, most colorful, and ugliest togas. These short-lived traditions, and the many others like them, are testaments to the remarkable staying power of the Crab Feast, Senior Luau, Prom, and Class Night.

What stands out about Centennial’s senior traditions is the extraordinary timelessness of them all. In the 42 years since Centennial opened, much has changed at the school and in the world in general. Yet now, in a new century, a new millennium, Centennial’s seniors flock to the crab feast, prom, and class night just as Centennial’s very first class did so many years ago. Maybe it’s because of our unchanging love of crabs. Maybe it’s because of our timeless desire for a night of luxury and limos. Or maybe, just maybe, there is something deeper at play. Maybe it’s because as the rest of our lives creep up on us, slowly at first, then faster and faster, we want, or rather, we need, chances to enjoy the present. We need those chances before they, like the present, slip away into the past.

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This article is featured in the 2019 Senior Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.