The Hickory Ridge Hawks
The word was spreading fast. Forty-five years of legacy was about to be washed away in the name of uniformity. All other schools are named after their respective village centers; why not Atholton? So the decision was made. Atholton High, founded in 1966, would become Hickory Ridge High. Only one question remained: Hogs or Hawks?
So went the rumor that began in Howard County but quickly found its way to the pages of Facebook, the timelines of Twitter, and the mouths of students across the county.
The Story Begins
It all started with a helmet. At a 2010 All-Star Football game, an Atholton student and a River Hill student exchanged stickers bearing their school logos as a sign of camaraderie. A few weeks later the helmet found its way into the Atholton equipment room. When an Atholton JV football player later saw the sticker on the newly adorned helmet, questions arose.
As a harmless joke, JV football coaches Mr. Stuppy and Mr. Burnette told the student that Atholton was changing their mascot to the “Hawks”; the said helmet was a prototype for the new uniform. The student persisted, wondering why after 45 years of being “Raider Nation” the school would suddenly change to a new mascot.
“In an effort to promote alliteration in team names, we told him that Atholton was changing its name to Hickory Ridge High School as a part of the construction project that was beginning this year,” said Mr. Stuppy.
The student next turned to Mr. Burnette for answers. In on the joke, Mr. Burnette gave no hints to the truth. Digging deeper, the player mentioned that River Hill already had the “Hawks” as their mascot. Mr. Stuppy jokingly replied that River Hill would become the Otters in promotion of the Patuxent River Watershed; unfortunately, this ludicrous and witty detail was dropped somewhere along the retelling of the story.
The Rumor Spreads
After a few minutes, Mr. Stuppy and Mr. Burnett admitted to the student that the potential name change was only a gag, and that Atholton would remain the Raiders. After this conversation in the equipment room, Mr. Stuppy and Mr. Burnett never repeated the joke.
A few weeks later, however, the rumor appeared in the halls of Atholton. During a usual day of locker room chatter, the JV football player brought up the idea of a name change, but the other players were not convinced.
“I thought at the most it was just gonna be a whisper that later died down, or something that everyone on the team joked around about,” said Marquise Smith, member of Atholton’s JV Football team.
Two months later however, the rumor returned. Mr. Burnett was visited by a former student who had heard of the rumor: this time the culprit was Facebook. There was apparently even a Facebook group dedicated to student commentaries regarding the change.
From Atholton to Facebook to…Arizona?
“When I found out from Facebook that Atholton was changing its name, I was really surprised and kind of upset,” said Amanda Lewis, an Atholton graduate of 2011 who now attends Arizona University. “I thought it would be weird that my sister would be graduating from the same school as me but with a different name.”
This rumor has been seen all over Twitter and other social networking sites.
“When I first heard the rumor I was mad because I thought that Atholton was trying to take our mascot. We have a long standing rivalry with Atholton so it would be weird if they became the Hawks,” said Josh Post, a River Hill student.
One blog stated that in school year 2016-17, Atholton will re-open after the new renovation as Hickory Ridge High; other sites have cited that the school colors will be purple and gold.
Even Mr. Stuppy’s sister, a 2007 Atholton graduate unaware that her brother had inadvertently begun the tale, caught wind of the rumor and texted him with concerns: “Hey inquiring minds wanna know what the deal with demolishing Atholton is.”
Like a giant game of telephone, each time the rumor was spread, details were changed and facts were exaggerated. Despite the power of social networking sites, the alliterative nature of the mascot changes-from Hawks to Hogs to Hippos-shows the importance of spoken word in communicating news.
“The one thing that didn’t surprise us was that with each retelling of the story it became more and more absurd-Hawks became Hogs, the Hickory Ridge name-change was ‘completely justified’ despite it contradicting 45 years of Atholton High School being Atholton High School.,” said Mr. Stuppy.
The news made its way all the way to the top via an unlikely source: Mrs. Bonnie Luepkes, 1967 Atholton graduate and former teacher. After she emailed the school concerning the issue, Ms. Clements replied to the staff, letting them know that it was unfounded. Ms. Clements initially heard about the rumor when “a group of parents e-mailed the school with questions about the issue.”
The Story Concludes
In an effort to provide clarity, an e-mail was sent out to the Atholton community explaining the confusion, and in the end it was understood that the name change was a minor miscommunication.
“I’m not opposed to [the rumor being out there]; it’s funny to think about,” said Ms. Clements. “I like tradition, so the Atholton Raiders is fine.”
Although, Mr. Stuppy and Mr. Burnett never intended for their joke to grow into a rumor, its rapid spread was a source of fascination.
“It’s sort of a problem and an awesome feature of our current era, but ideas can spread like wildfire from person to person and are automatically refreshed on our computers and, for most of us, our cellphones,” said Mr. Stuppy. “That, combined with Atholton’s 45 years of excellence, made for a very promising rumor.”
One unexpected discovery that became apparent to Mr. Stuppy was the overwhelming sense of Raider pride, as seen in the overall reaction to the rumor. Not only were students and parents concerned, but they were outraged at the potential change.
“In all the students we’ve encountered who have heard about the rumor, we don’t recall a single one of them being excited about it. Most said it was a terrible idea.”
And so the Atholton Raiders will remain the Raiders; once a Raider, always a Raider. Now about that pool on the roof…