Howard Community College's old mascot, the Iron Horse Express, is chugging off into the sunset. Cue the fire-breathing successors.
A panel of students, faculty and staff has picked "The Dragons" to replace the antique locomotive as HCC's athletics symbol, officials announced yesterday.
Two people suggested the idea - Beltsville resident Lindsey Slaybaugh, a student at HCC, and Columbia resident Arna Berkowitz, who has taken courses at the college.
About 30 people entered the mascot contest, lured by the chance to create HCC's new image and by the prize of $300 in tuition - the cost of a three-credit class. Slaybaugh and Berkowitz each received a $300 prize.
Slaybaugh, 18, who graduated from High Point High School in Beltsville this year, has tired of the typical athletic mascots.
"You have the Hawks, you have the Tigers," she said, ticking off the usual suspects. Her high school's teams are known as the Eagles.
A dragon, she said, "is something different."
Berkowitz, who won't reveal her age but will say she "was born in the Year of the Dragon," figures she was the last to enter the contest. Her application was in two minutes before deadline.
She imagines a costumed mascot for home games designed to look like a Chinese dragon - with a bunch of people inside.
"You're having a team doing this," Berkowitz said.
Any attention the mascot gets will be more than the Iron Horse Express received, at least of late. The locomotive wasn't on campus anywhere. Many athletes didn't know it existed.
A survey in October found that 69 percent of people thought the train needed to go. HCC officials have promised from the start to treat the new mascot better.
"We'd really like to make it stronger than what it was before," Kate Hetherington, vice president of student services, said before the winner was announced.