Tag: Centennial High School

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.

Movies to Look Forward to This Summer

Words: Josh Kim and Liam Lovering

Dark Phoenix

After almost 19 years of X-Men movies, the franchise is producing one more movie with our beloved mutant characters. Dark Phoenix will follow the story of how one of the mutants becomes the strongest mutant ever, threatening to destroy the world.

Child’s Play

Child’s Play is a reboot to the horror film following Chucky, where visual effects artists and a new director brings a horrifying twist to the iconic original movie. Child’s Play still uses the same name as the 1988 version, but will serve as a remake. It is a must watch for horror film lovers and those who’ve watched the 1988’s Child’s Play.

The Lion King

Disney’s animated movie The Lion King comes to life this summer with visual effects and computer generated images (CGI). The story will follow the 1994 classic exactly, filled with drama, tragedy, coming of age, and revenge. Very promisingly, this movie has a wide range of exciting voice actors, including Beyonce, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover), Eric Andre, and Keegan-Michael Key. This movie will be filled to the brim with nostalgia and beautiful scenery, making this movie a must watch.

Toy Story 4

After nine years, the fourth movie in the Toy Story saga is finally being released. In this film, all of the original characters, such as Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and others, go on a road trip with a newly acquired friend and toy, Forky. Woody also encounters an old friend, Bo Peep, and they reminisce about the old days. This movie is directed by Josh Cooley, and stars Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Keanu Reeves. It will be released on June 20.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

In the aftermath of the events of Avengers Endgame, one of the main characters, Peter Parker, also known as “Spider-Man,” must take the place of his role model Tony Stark who has passed away. This Marvel movie, directed by Jon Watts and starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jake Gyllenhaal, will be released on July 2.

Men in Black: International

Men in Black: International is the fourth movie of the Men in Black series, a group of movies in which special agents defend Earth with high-tech gadgets. However, in this Men in Black movie, the agents take on their hardest challenge yet, protecting the Earth against one of their own agents. This movie, directed by F. Gary Gray and starring Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and Liam Neeson, will premier in theaters on July 13.

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The Return of Old Ellicott City

Words: Andrew Le

Due to the flood in May of 2018 that destroyed Old Ellicott City, residents were affected in many ways. Not only were several areas inaccessible, but entire roads were closed off, such as the one that travelled from the Roger Carter area to Frederick Road.

On April 27 of 2019, this road was opened back up, and Old Ellicott City returned. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, with the weather starting to change and summer coming up, the option of going to Old Ellicott City becomes more desirable.

Despite the city’s current success, recent tornadoes and heavy rainfall mimic the same events that put the area out of commission in the first place, which could raise questions regarding future development.

There are many businesses investing in opening at this monumental place, but is it truly a smart decision? There will be many costs, financially and even physically, if history chooses to repeat itself.

Should Old Ellicott City get shut down if it becomes victim to another flood? Or will it live on for many more years to come, allowing newer generations to experience this monument?

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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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Science Olympiad Team Goes to Nationals

Words: Sarah Paz

Centennial’s Science Olympiad team, affectionately called SciOly by its team members, traveled to the Science Olympiad National Tournament in Ithaca, winning 29th place.

Sophomore B-team member Shreya Vallimanalan said that the team placed 1st in the Environmental Chemistry Event at Cornell University.

“We also came in 12th in Chemistry Lab, 14th in Fermi Questions, 14th in Hovercraft, 16th in Astronomy, and 18th in Helicopters, ” she said. “We definitely view these achievements [as] successes. Every year, we strive to improve, so we will continue to work hard to prepare for next year’s competitions.”

Their success story began nine months ago in September. Even though the club allows anybody to participate, tryouts were held to be part of higher teams like the A-team who represented Centennial at the National Science Olympiad.

Just like any serious sports team, SciOly showed their dedication by practicing every week. At 2:15pm every Thursday, the team would hold weekly meetings beginning with announcements about the next competition. To practice and collaborate on projects, the team would break into the pairs they compete in at tournaments.

SciOly’s consistent determination won them first at the Maryland Science Olympiad which allowed them to qualify for the national tournament.

To celebrate the SciOly’s success at Nationals and a successful year together, the team gathered for a picnic on June 6.

The Science Olympiad team attributes some of their great successes throughout the season to Centennial biology teacher and team sponsor, Jason Piluk.

“Mr. Piluk, our coach, has greatly helped and supported our team… the Science Olympiad Club would not run as smoothly as it does with his guidance. He provides us with a lot of support and encourages our passions for STEM,” Vallimanalan said.

Regarding his role as the team’s sponsor, Piluk stated, “I pretty much make sure the club exists, is registered with the state and national program, provide a workspace for the team, confirm team rosters, facilitate travel to and from various competitions… and cheer them on.”

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