The moment came early in the school year, during Reservoir High School's football game against Atholton High.

The Friday night game was played under new stadium lights at Atholton, a school many Reservoir students once had called home. But for the first time senior Kristen Machcinski could remember, none of her classmates were wearing colors from Atholton or any of the other high schools they attended before being redistricted to Reservoir. When the Gators eked out a 20-18 victory over Atholton that night, Reservoir fans stormed the field in celebration.

"I just thought it was a big moment because everyone did it together," Machcinski said.

This afternoon, the members of Reservoir's first senior class will share their last moment together as they walk across the stage of Merriweather Post Pavilion to receive their diplomas.

"Some of you were excited" to come to Reservoir, Principal Adrianne Kaufman told the seniors during their farewell assembly last week. "Some of you were mad. But today we are all together as Gators."

Reservoir opened in 2002, after a bitter debate over redistricting that pitted parents and students from different schools against each other. Roughly 600 students from Atholton, Hammond and River Hill high schools and Lime Kiln, Murray Hill and Hammond middle schools came together under the same roof.

To ease the pain of the transition, the county school board decided that the school would open with only freshmen and sophomores. Kaufman tried to promote school spirit with ice skating and bowling trips, a school dance and a picnic.

But it wasn't until this year, seniors said, that the school came into its own.

"We've been almost like the baby in the county," senior Nicole Martino said. "The county has almost watched us grow as a school."

The students' journey has had its share of obstacles and challenges. The high school's relatively small population often made it feel more like a middle school, students said. This is the first year that Reservoir has had students in all four grades. In a sense, students in the class of 2005 have been "seniors" for the past three years.

Students maintained strong allegiances to their old schools. During their sophomore year, some former Atholton students hatched a plan -- never carried out -- to wear their old school colors of green and white during homecoming week to protest their move. To bolster school spirit, Reservoir officials gave students their senior rings at the end of 10th grade instead of waiting until they were juniors.

Several students were wearing those rings last week during a breakfast of doughnuts and orange juice for seniors. When a visitor asked Machcinski what school she was from, she automatically responded, "Right here," then corrected herself.

"Oh, Atholton," she said. "Sorry, it's been so long."

Martino sat at the end of a crowded cafeteria table one morning last week selling tickets to the senior class night at Ten Oaks Ballroom and to the senior class picnic. She flipped through a large stack of $20 bills. About 150 students had bought tickets for both events.

"Come back later. I ran out," Martino told a senior looking to buy a ticket.

Martino is vice president of Reservoir's senior board, made up of four elected members and about 16 volunteers who plan events for their last year of high school. There was no precedent for the seniors to follow. Everything was up to them.

"Really, everything you see around here we had a part in," Martino said.

What kind of prom should they have? They opted for a junior-senior dance.

What should they do on class night? Dinner, dancing, musical chairs with the faculty and a slide show of their time at Reservoir.

What color should their graduation robes be? White for the girls, navy for the boys.

"It's little stuff like that, but it's stuff that's going to stay in Reservoir's history," Martino said.

Students said the school hallways seem more crowded now. New faces pop up in the library and at games. Freshmen outnumber seniors.

"Little people," said Tamie Nguyen, rolling her eyes.

"It's like, where did you come from?" added her friend Brianne Hoe.

At the farewell assembly in the school auditorium last week, the juniors looked on as the seniors paraded in their caps and gowns. Kaufman beamed at the crowd. The program honored students who have received scholarships and awards. It recognized National Merit semifinalists and students who had perfect attendance. And when it was over, the seniors were one step closer to the end of their time at Reservoir.

"It's hard to believe we're finally approaching graduation," Kaufman said.

Reservoir is no longer the baby of the county. In August, another school will be born: Marriotts Ridge, the county's 12th high school. The school's mascot is the mustang, its colors are navy and silver, and its hallways will be filled with freshmen and sophomores -- no seniors, yet.

William Callaway hugs Corby Smith in the gymnasium as they wait to stand for a photo of Reservoir High's Class of 2005. At right, on senior class night, graduating students celebrate and dance at the Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville. The school opened in 2002 after a bitter debate about redistricting. For a while, students maintained strong allegiances to their old schools. When Reservoir opened it had only freshmen and sophomores; the past school year was the first in which it had students in all four grades. Above, Tamie Nguyen, left, and Roxanne Nickell try on their caps during a graduation rehearsal in Reservoir High School's auditorium last week. At left, Natia Sellers and Daniel McCormack watch as a classmate performs during senior night.Chaka Tyson, left, and Geneveve Hargraves check out the votive candles for Reservoir High's graduates last week at senior night.Friends and relatives shoot pictures as Reservoir's seniors assemble for a panoramic class photo in the gym last week.