Tag: Caleb McClatchey

Centennial Cheers on Law Enforcement Torch Run

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photos: Zach Grable

Centennial students and staff took a break from their usual routine Thursday morning to support the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a public awareness and fundraising group which supports the Special Olympics.

As students clapped and cheered, law enforcement, along with some Special Olympics athletes, ran down Centennial Lane carrying the Flame of Hope, the Special Olympics torch.

In preparation for the Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games, the torch has been passed between Maryland counties. The games are set to begin this Friday at Towson University.

Each year, 97,000 law enforcement officers participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, carrying the Flame of Hope into local, state, national, and world competitions.

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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.

3 Coaches. 1 Program. Still Soaring

Words: Caleb McClatchey

41 years ago, Centennial’s Varsity boys basketball team celebrated their first win in program history, a 68-64 double overtime victory over rival Mount Hebron. Over four decades and 450 wins later, generations of Eagle athletes have built a program rich in tradition and full of history.

In the landscape of high school basketball, continuity takes a backseat to change far too often. A team which wins a championship one year may have a completely new lineup the next. Come back four years later and there won’t be a single familiar face. In a competition level where turnover is inevitable, can a program really be considered a program? Is there truly any connection between Greg Brouse of Centennial’s inaugural season and Stafford Smith of today’s?

The answer –in the case of Centennial– is yes. But this story isn’t about the connection between any of Centennial’s players, it’s about the three coaches who tied them all together.

Samuel Leishure became coach of the Varsity team when the school opened in 1977. Leishure, 34 at the time, transferred to Centennial after spending 11 years working at Northwestern High School. Although he stepped down from coaching after the 1983-84 season, Leishure continued to work as a guidance counselor at Centennial until his retirement in 2002.

As coach, Leishure was tasked with a unique challenge: building a program from scratch. Unsurprisingly, Centennial’s inexperience proved too much to overcome in their inaugural season. After their thrilling, double-overtime win over Mount Hebron, the Eagles only won one more game and finished with an overall record of 2-18.  However, Centennial improved dramatically the following year and finished 15-9 — the first winning record in program history.

Unfortunately, that 15-9 record proved to be the high water mark of Leishure’s tenure. Over his next five seasons, the Eagles were consistently mediocre, never finishing with a better record than 12-8 or a worse record than 8-14. Nevertheless, Leishure’s influence on the program extended far beyond wins and losses. Although he may not have achieved the final results he desired, Leishure set the tone for how the program should be run.

“He did what was right,” said Jim Hill, Leishure’s successor. “He was always kind of a moral pinnacle.” As coach, Leishure demanded excellence from his players both on and off the court. He made sure they never cut corners, and never put up with players cutting classes or getting into fights.

According to Hill, Leishure would “make sure that [his players] were willing to pay the price to be good, and be a good person as well.” It was in this way that Leishure shaped the program from the beginning, serving as a great example for the two coaches who followed him.

When Leishure stepped down from coaching at the end of the 1983-84 season, Hill applied for the job and got it. Hill had already been a part of the program for two years as coach of the Junior Varsity (JV) team, making the switch to Varsity more of a natural step.

Although Hill’s more aggressive, pressure-oriented coaching style differed from Leishure’s more conservative approach, Hill believes he benefited from watching Leishure coach before taking over as Varsity coach.

“I think he rubbed off on me in a very positive fashion,” Hill recalled. “He made me a little more cautious and [got me] to consider other aspects of the game.”

“[Leishure] did what was right. He was always kind of a moral pinnacle.” – Jim Hill
Ben Lubbehusen, who played for both coaches, noted that even though Leishure influenced Hill, Hill “never became Leishure. He took those skills and implemented them into his personality.”

Despite their distinctly different philosophies, Hill produced similar results in his first seven seasons as Varsity coach. From Hill’s first season in 1984-85 to the 1990-91 season, the Eagles went a combined 59-95 (.383 winning percentage). In comparison, the Eagles went 64-84 (.432 winning percentage) from 1977-78 to 1983-84 under Leishure.

Entering its 15th season in 1991, Centennial’s basketball program had become defined by mediocrity. The program had no county titles, no regional titles, and owned an overall winning percentage barely over .400. The Howard County Sun, in their 1991-92 Howard County Basketball Preview, put it bluntly: “The Eagles have talent, but need the confidence to overcome a losing tradition and the consistency they’ve sorely lacked in the past.”

For Hill, two of the most important things in establishing a winning culture were getting his players to “buy in” and truly dedicate themselves to the program.

Under Hill, basketball became a near year-round commitment for Centennial players. The team began to play in summer and fall leagues together, strengthening team unity and giving players more opportunities to practice and improve.

“[They] bought into the concept that you had to work at the game to get better,” said Hill.

In addition to playing in summer and fall leagues, Hill began taking his teams on overnight team camps in the summer. While staying at colleges like Syracuse or the University of Delaware, his players had a chance to learn from other coaches, practice, and bond on and off the court.

Hill believes that playing basketball almost year-round, along with the discipline they developed and their overall dedication to the program, “made them realize that they had to work at it and become better at it and they did.”

Perhaps as a result of their work ethic and dedication, Hill’s teams became known for their sound fundamentals and great defense. Both of these characteristics stemmed from Hill’s emphasis on the team over the individual. Hill pushed the idea that it’s much better for five players to score ten points than for one player to score twenty. It was Hill’s goal to make opposing defenses feel as if they had to stop all five players at once — an extremely difficult task.

“[The team] bought into the concept that you had to work at the game to get better.” – Jim Hill
Over the next ten seasons, Hill’s methods and philosophy proved successful as the Eagles completely changed the culture of the Centennial basketball program. After ending a streak of four straight losing seasons with a 14-9 mark in 1991-92, the Eagles won the first county title in school history the following year. Three seasons later, the Eagles won their second county title. The next year, they won their third, en route to an undefeated season and 22-1 overall record. Three seasons after that, they won another county title. As if that wasn’t enough, they won yet another in the 2000-01 season.

After leading Centennial to five county titles and a 145-82 record (.639 winning percentage) in a ten-year span, Hill had not just erased the program’s losing tradition, he had replaced it with a winning one. He led Centennial to one more county title, his sixth, in the 2004-05 season before retiring two seasons later.

Following his departure, JV Coach Chad Hollwedel took over the Varsity job. Hollwedel had been part of the program since 1997, serving as JV assistant, Varsity assistant, and JV head coach in that time. According to Hollwedel, Hill was supportive of him getting the job and even put in a good word to Scott Pfeifer, the principal.

“I felt that the program would be in great hands with Coach Hollwedel,” recalled Hill.

With ten years of experience coaching in the program, Hollwedel was already familiar with the program’s new, winning culture and Hill’s philosophy. Just as Leishure had rubbed off on Hill, Hill gave Hollwedel valuable insight on coaching and leading a successful program.

Coaching wise, Hollwedel says that watching how the system which Hill taught in practice translated to games taught him a lot. While the system which Hollwedel runs now differs from the one Hill ran, the three major tenets of Hill’s philosophy: great discipline, great defense, and sound fundamentals, are still a major focus in the program according to Hollwedel.

Off the court, Hollwedel learned the importance of developing interpersonal relationships with his players.

“Being able to relate personally as a player and coach was obviously critical,” he said.

Hill also taught Hollwedel that mutual respect between and unity within a program’s coaching staff is essential for success. Hollwedel noted that players will see through a disunified coaching staff right away – ultimately leading to a more divided program.

As Varsity coach, Hollwedel took this concept of unity within the program and expanded on it, implementing a system similar to the one he had been a part of in the football program. Instead of traditional JV or Varsity assistant coaches, Hollwedel decided to have “program assistants.” These assistants rotate between JV and Varsity every day, giving them the chance to work with all players in the program.

“There’s continuity in what we teach because all of the coaches are teaching the same thing to every kid,” explained Hollwedel. As a result, JV and Varsity are more like one unified program and less like two separate teams.

Another important point of emphasis for Hollwedel is focusing on one game at a time rather than the season as whole.

“You’re not worrying about having a winning record, you’re not worried about consistently winning over the course of the season. You’re worried about trying to be your best every night to be 1-0 at the end of that night.” Hollwedel believes that having this mindset the whole season helps prepare his teams for the playoffs, a time when each game is truly a must-win.

With Hollwedel at the helm, the winning tradition that Hill began has grown even stronger. After finishing with a losing record in his first two seasons, Hollwedel has led Centennial to nine straight winning seasons. Although Hollwedel has not won as many county titles as Hill, he has demonstrated a knack for taking his teams deep into the playoffs.

In the 2010-11 season, Centennial won regionals and advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history. Like Hill’s success with county titles, the floodgates opened after winning the first. In fact, the Eagles won regionals again the very next year and again in the 2014-15 season.

In their 1979-80 varsity basketball preview, Pam Harrison and Brent Burkhardt of the Wingspan wrote that Leishure, “says that winning the state championships would naturally be his ultimate goal, but a more attainable one would be just to make it to the state championships.” On March 14, 2015 –12,889 days after the Wingspan’s preview was published– Leishure’s “ultimate goal” finally turned into a reality for the program. With a 57-43 victory over Westlake at College Park, Centennial earned its first boys basketball state title in school history. That win wasn’t just the result of one team’s year of hard work. Instead, it was the culmination of 38 seasons of Centennial basketball. 38 seasons of dedication and a commitment to excellence from Centennial players. 38 seasons of support from the Centennial community. 38 seasons in which Leishure set an example, Hill created a winning culture, and Hollwedel improved on their success. And so, as the Eagles try to win that elusive last game of the season once again this year, they are not merely playing for themselves or for Hollwedel. They are also playing for Hill, Leishure, and all the players who came before them. They are the Eagles of course; they play for Centennial.

To read this article in the March print issue click here.

Featured Image by Ellie Zoller-Gritz.

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

Centennial Boys’ Victorious over Glenelg in 57-56 Thriller

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photos: Noorie Kazmi

The Centennial Varsity Boys’ basketball team defeated Glenelg 57-56 on the Eagles’ home court Friday night.

The Eagles and Gladiators fought back and forth all night, with neither team able to take control of the game and pull away from the other.

Glenelg’s early foul trouble helped Centennial jump out to a seven point lead midway through the first quarter, the largest by either team during the game. However, Glenelg battled back and tied the game at 23 with 4:40 left in the second quarter. At the end of the half, the Eagles trailed 31-30.

The second half began much like the first, with Centennial jumping out to a 41-36 lead. Glenelg answered with a 10-0 run of their own, and led 46-41 midway through the fourth quarter. This time, Centennial closed the deficit and cut Glenelg’s lead to one point, setting up a nail-biting final two minutes.

With two minutes to go, a three-point shot by Centennial’s Ryan Hollwedel gave the Eagles a 52-50 lead. After both teams scored two points, a three-point shot by Glenelg put the Gladiators back in front 55-54 with just over a minute left. Following a Glenelg free throw which extended their lead to two points, Centennial’s Stafford Smith made a layup on a fast break to tie the game at 56.

Shortly after, a foul by Glenelg sent Centennial’s Brandon Bonner to the line. Bonner sunk his first shot but missed his second, giving the Eagles a one point lead and Glenelg one last possession. The Gladiators ran the clock down as they passed the ball around, trying to find an open look for a game-winning shot.

With only three seconds left in the game, Glenelg’s shot clanked off the rim- securing a 57-56 Eagles win and sending the Centennial crowd into a frenzy.

Centennial was kept relatively quiet from beyond the arc for most of the night, making only three three-pointers over the first three quarters. However, the Eagles’ deep shot came in clutch in the fourth quarter. Two three-pointers by Stafford Smith and one by Ryan Hollwedel helped propel Centennial to victory in the dramatic final eight minutes.

Both teams had trouble scoring in the paint all night thanks to solid defensive performances by both squads.

Stafford Smith led the Eagles in scoring with 17 points, followed by Brandon Bonner and Cameron Berkeley with 11. Carson Dick finished with a team-high 21 points for Glenelg.

Centennial improved to 7-4 overall and 6-1 in county with their win over Glenelg. The Eagles will look for their fourth straight win on Wednesday at home versus River Hill.

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

Students Dress Up as their Favorite Holiday Characters

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photos: Eliza Andrew

Centennial students dressed up as their favorite holiday personalities for Holiday Character Day on Friday. Students dressed up as characters like Santa Claus and even Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation.

The fun theme helped cap off Spirit Week and put students in the holiday spirit before winter break.

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

Centennial Choral Ensembles Perform in Winter Concert

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photos: Ellie Zoller-Gritz

The Centennial Music Department hosted the annual Winter Choral Concert Wednesday night, featuring performances from all of Centennial’s choral ensembles and clubs.

Concert Choir, the largest ensemble in the Centennial choral program, kicked off the evening with their rendition of Hlohonolofatsa, a South African greeting song. Rebecca Vanover, Director of Choirs, explained how her goal was to explore many different cultures in the music her ensembles performed.

While additional songs by Concert Choir, Bella Voce, and Chamber Choir provided more international flavor, the various ensembles helped put the audience in the holiday spirit as well. Vocal Jazz and Chamber Choir sang the traditional winter songs of The First Noel and Carol of the Bells, respectively. Chamber Choir also sang Serenissima una noche, a holiday song with an international twist.

In addition to Concert Choir, Bella Voce and Chamber Choir, Centennial’s choral clubs, C# Acapella and Vocal Jazz, also made appearances. C#, a student-led acapella group, performed 715 – Creeks. Vocal Jazz, a new group this year, sang The First Noel and They Say it’s Wonderful.

Following performances by all five groups, every singer packed on to the stage for one final song. Afterwards, Vanover thanked the audience for coming and praised her students for their success.

“They truly make me proud to do what I do,” she concluded.

The choral concert capped off a week of concerts for the Centennial music program. All choirs, bands, and orchestras will play again during the spring concerts beginning April 2nd.

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

Centennial Boys’ Basketball Defeated in Season Opener

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photos: Jenna Marie Torres

The Centennial Varsity Boys’ basketball team fell to Atholton at home by a score of 58-40 in its season opener on Friday.

Centennial’s Matt Merkey scored the first point of the season, making a free throw which gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately for the Eagles, however, that ended up being their only lead of the night. Atholton quickly answered with a 6-0 run, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

Both teams played solid defense early, with only 12 total points being scored in the first quarter, but Centennial had trouble capitalizing on their possessions the whole night. Atholton’s physical and aggressive defense forced many turnovers and helped the Raiders go on another dominant run in the 2nd quarter, outscoring Centennial 13-1.

The Eagles entered halftime trailing 22-12, a large deficit but certainly not insurmountable. However, Atholton began the 2nd half hot and jumped out to a 38-16 lead, their largest of the night. Centennial battled back late in the 3rd and early in the 4th quarter, going on a 14-4 run which cut Atholton’s lead to 12. The comeback attempt ended up falling short in the 4th, however, as Atholton took back control of the game and defeated Centennial 58-40.

One of the stories of the game for Centennial, besides turnovers, was Atholton’s dominance from the three-point line. While Atholton made six from beyond the arc, Centennial only managed two- both by Ryan Hollwedel late in the 2nd half.

Senior Michael Kefyalew led the Eagles in scoring with 15 points, followed by junior Joey Sedlacko with 9 and senior Cameron Berkeley with 7. For Atholton, senior Casey Parkins led the team in scoring with 26 points.

The Eagles will play Atholton again on February 1st and have a chance to avenge Friday’s loss. Last year, Centennial also began its year with a season-opening loss to Atholton but ultimately had the last laugh as Centennial eliminated Atholton in the playoffs.

Centennial’s next game is on Wednesday, December 12th at home against rival Mount Hebron.

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