Year In Review: Reflecting On 2023


Another year is about to be in the books, and this one was full of memorable events around Severna Park and Arnold. Several people showcased their entrepreneurism and game-show skills on television. Creative groups produced documentaries, new music and books. Students and athletes around town reached new academic and athletic heights.

The community also witnessed upsetting incidents, but some residents responded by taking a moment to reflect, preaching unity and kindness.


Anne Arundel County Public Schools held an event at Severna Park High School in January to address bullying after an incident at the school went viral. AACPS Superintendent Mark Bedell led a community conversation, which was followed by group discussions. To promote kindness and inclusion, Severna Park High School then held a series of events including a Vans shoe design contest in the spring. Senior Nadia Abdolahi and sophomore Jameson Murray tied for the most votes.

“Me and some of my friends have not had the kindest words said to us, so I feel like it was a good way to kind of talk about it,” Jameson said. “This also makes me feel proud to go here because it’s for such a good cause. It’s not just like, ‘Oh, design a pair of Vans just to design a pair of Vans,’ so it’s actual meaning behind it.”

Severna Park High School honored one of its own by retiring the jersey of former record-setting shortstop and current San Diego Padres prospect Jackson Merrill on January 13. Since being selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft in 2021, Merrill has ascended to the AA level. He hit .273 with five home runs and 31 RBIs in 187 plate appearances after being promoted to AA midway through the minor league season in 2023. The MLB website currently ranks Merrill as the ninth overall prospect in baseball.

When Severna Park High School’s a cappella group, Sol, auditioned for the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA) in fall 2022, advancing in the competition seemed out of reach because it was the group’s first time competing. On February 11, 2023, however, Sol placed second in one of the ICHSA Mid-Atlantic quarterfinals at St. Charles High School in Waldorf, Maryland, allowing them to reach the semifinals in March.

“My favorite part about the performance had to be how I saw how much I have grown with music in the time I have been in Sol,” said student soloist Jenna Augustine said. “Sol has taught me to come out of my shell, to not look at competition and be scared, but to see it as a learning opportunity and a space to grow as an artist.”

The Severna Park boys indoor track team claimed their second consecutive Class 4A state championship at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover from February 21-22. To win the title, the Falcons (46.5 points) edged Montgomery Blair (45), Northwest (35) and several other schools.

While local schools enjoyed plenty of team success over the past year, so did individual athletes. Broadneck wrestler Liam DeBaugh won the Class 4A/3A state championship at 160 pounds on March 4 at the Show Place Arena at Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro. He cruised past Nelson Manzoeto of Montgomery Blair, 9-1, to finish with a 40-1 record.

During the winter season, the Severna Park girls basketball team was also near perfect. The girls won three playoff games, beating North Point by five points, blowing out South River and edging Urbana by three. That had Severna Park doing something on March 7 that they had not done since 1988 — appearing in a final four. Unfortunately, the Falcons ran into the county champion Glen Burnie Gophers, who ended Severna Park’s season.

After 42 years of teaching across Anne Arundel County, Angie Germanos retired. The 1974 Severna Park High School graduate was best known as the school’s drama advisor who oversaw Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival.

The school’s new drama advisor, Karah Parks, took over the reins right away. From powerful ballads to head-banging hits, a range of music was on during the first weekend of Severna Park High School’s 34th Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival from March 9-12. Talented singers, instrumentalists and tech crew will thrill audiences again from March 16-18. This year’s theme was “RNR XXXIV Goes to the Movies,” featuring some of the most beloved songs used in films.

Arsalan “Arsy” Khodabandelou appeared on the ABC show “Shark Tank” on March 10 to pitch his pet safety app, Woof, while giving investors something to chew on.


Theater teacher, actor and professional wrestler Fred Fletcher-Jackson added “Wheel of Fortune” winner to his resume. The 2011 Severna Park High School graduate — or “The Purple Parrot” Colin Sheen when he’s in the wrestling ring — appeared on an episode that aired March 21. Fletcher-Jackson played the show’s first perfect game of the year and won $75,800 in cash and prize winnings, including a trip to Costa Rica. As the cameras were rolling, game show host Pat Sajak placed a wrestling move on “The Purple Parrot.” That move went viral.

“I was very surprised,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “I think [Sajak is] great at spur-of-the-moment bits. He had me pretty tight in that hammerlock.”

Karen and Bob Royer were honored at the Severna Park Community Center’s annual gala on April 29 at Chartwell Golf & Country Club for their long-standing volunteerism and involvement in numerous Severna Park organizations.

Roughly one month later, the Falcons girls lacrosse team claimed the program’s 15th state championship and first since 2019, beating Towson 12-8 at Stevenson University for the 3A girls lacrosse title on May 25. With the win, the Falcons (17-3) tied Mount Hebron for the most girls lacrosse championships in Maryland public school history.

The three-headed attack monster of Charlotte Diez, Alyssa Chung and Regan McDonnell paced the Falcons offense down the stretch, while Lilly Spilker anchored a tenacious Severna Park defense that was good when it needed to be in the state semifinals, and then locked things down in the final.

The Broadneck boys were dominant, capping an undefeated season with a 16-6 win over Sherwood on May 24 to win their first title since 1997. For the Broadneck girls, Mary Moore scored the last of her three goals with 4:24 to play in the game to propel her team to a 9-8 win over Dulaney at Stevenson University, capturing the school’s third straight state title and the sixth in program history.

In a rematch of the 2022 Class 3A boys lacrosse championship game, the Severna Park boys rallied from a second-half deficit to beat Mount Hebron, 9-8. With that win, they set a state record with a seventh consecutive state championship.


Wayne Gerst, owner of Gerst Towing Service, was named grand marshal of the 2023 Severna Park Independence Day Parade.

Although was the first year that Gerst served as parade grand marshal, he has had a hand in the beloved community event for more than 20 years, whether it’s donating or providing time, land for prep, equipment such as rollback trucks for an emcee platform, or vintage vehicles.

“The people and the kids are what keep me coming back,” Gerst said. “People give you thumbs up, holler and just have a good time.”

The Severna Park American Legion Post 175 Spartans baseball team played in a game on July 16 to honor Gold Star military families at Prince George’s Stadium, home of the Bowie Baysox, a Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

Back in Severna Park, the Magothy River Association unearthed documents, letters and newspaper articles in the process of creating a 12-minute documentary called “Fort Grey, Mount Misery: A Local Civil War Story.”

JV baseball coach Dave Ferris had plenty of stories to share after he called it a career at Severna Park High School. The longtime coach racked up 333 wins, 74 losses and one undefeated season over 24 years.

Ferris, who also coached players in the summer American Legion league, waited until the American Legion state championship was over July 29 to make his decision public.

“Having great lasting relationships with kids and families is something that makes me very proud,” Ferris said. “I run into kids, now adults, or their families and they always remember plays or incidents with me, and that’s special. I hope that means I’ve made a positive impact.”

Another coach took over for the football program in place of Mike Wright. Assistant coach Nick Marks spent seven years as a Falcons assistant after 10 years with Chesapeake and one with North County before becoming a head coach.

Wright retired due to health concerns. He hopes his time as both a Green Hornets coach and Severna Park High School coach resonated with players.

“Wins and losses are a great thing, but the big wins and losses from coaching are not on the scoreboard but how you treated your players, how they responded, and developing them not only as players but as men,” Wright said.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) swore in its 50th student member of the board (SMOB), Eric Lin from Severna Park High School, during the summer. He campaigned for the position with five key policies in mind: no homework or assigned work on select SAT/ACT testing days, improving and diversifying school meals, reforming late attendance policies concerning student-athletes, revamping the world classical language curriculum so students can use their skills in the real world, and removing some dress code restrictions.

Julie Lowman, a math department chair at Severna Park High School, never stopped writing. Her first novel, “Leaving Us,” was published in July. The story follows a 16-year-old girl who finds herself in a complicated and often confusing relationship with a boy with an unpredictable temper.

Featuring two former Arnold residents, rock band VEER released their second album “Soft Machines” in July.

“As a band, we pushed this second album in a different direction than the first,” said Ronald Malfi, a vocalist and guitarist. “It's sonically more mature, with layered melodies and more intricate and nuanced chord structures. It's arguably a concept album, running a thematic balance between the organic nature of humankind and the dreamlike, fanciful notions of transcending beyond that humanity — a literal ‘blast off’ from the human race.”


Tween sisters Lila and Georgia launched LilaPants, an online boutique for their line of formalwear, in September.

The community also recognized some of its most accomplished athletes as the Severna Park Athletic Boosters ushered in the Hall of Fame class of 2023. The Hall of Fame’s newest members are Dave Briggs (class of 1962), Bob Felts (class of 1970), Erin Wylde Kindy (class of 1994), Becky Shank Mollot (class of 1996), Lauren Boyd Leventry (class of 1999), Jim Ledsome (class of 2004), Ben Hunt (class of 2005) and Kathie Zingler (coach through 2011).

Oak Hill third-grader Nick Hoover was one of 12 Maryland children chosen to be a Chick-fil-A kid correspondent. In July, he filmed a commercial that aired in the fall.

In other food-related news, Hellas Restaurant and Lounge closed in September after two decades of serving Greek fare in Millersville.

“We greatly value all of our relationships in the community,” said Mike Stavlas, who ran the restaurant with his family. “A lot of our regulars are customers who have been coming in since the beginning. We filled a role in the community as a unique establishment, and nothing is going to be the same as us. We truly care and love our customers. Those relationships will be irreplaceable.”

That closure shocked many people around Severna Park. The events on October 7 in Israel shocked the world. A decades-long conflict between Israel and Hamas resulted in my bloodshed, and former Severna Park and Arnold residents witnessed the aftermath from their homes in Israel.

Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold hosted a gathering one week later.

“The attacks eight days ago on Simchat Torah, a festival of joy, 50 years after the Yom Kippur War, the attacks eight days ago were barbaric, and they have shaken us to our core,” said Rabbi Ari Goldstein. “And those attacks should be denounced without any qualification.”

In lighter news, two Severna Park High School graduates and their bandmates, known as The Bards, released songs from their 14-song record “Tales From the Swindling Serpent.”

The Severna Park’s girls soccer team proved to be a sneaky opponent. The girls finished a perfect season by beating Mount Herbon 2-0 on November 18. With that win, the Falcons won the program’s seventh state championship and the first in 20 years.

Cross country teams also had plenty to celebrate. The Severna Park girls captured their second straight state championship at Hereford High on November 7 while the boys team finished second.

Broadneck’s football team came up one game short of a state title, losing to Wise on December 1. They have much to be proud of as they became the second team from Broadneck to make the state finals, joining the 2003 team.


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