Plebes climb greased Herndon Monument

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“Plebes no more!” cheers were heard Monday when a U.S. Naval Academy baseball player tossed a Midshipman’s cap on top of a greased Herndon Monument in 1:32:43.

Plebes’ climb of Herndon Monument completes Naval Academy first-year rite of passage
By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun
7:37 p.m. EDT, May 20, 2013

With a flick of his wrist, a U.S. Naval Academy baseball player from Orlando, Fla., tossed an upperclassman’s hat atop the Herndon Monument on Monday, leading his 2016 classmates to launch into cheers of “Plebes no more!” amid roars from onlookers.

“I was considering jumping and making it a little more dramatic,” said Patrick Lien — who is a catcher, not pitcher, on the Navy team, “but I didn’t want to fall and make a scene.”

The Herndon climb was itself a scene: hundreds of plebes, or freshmen, charged a slickened, 21-foot tall granite obelisk at the service academy in Annapolis. Plebes climbed atop each other all around it, groping their way up and slip-sliding down. Many tumbled, and their base of strong classmates collapsed periodically.

Following tradition, the monument, dedicated to the memory of Cmdr. William Lewis Herndon, had been slathered overnight with close to 100 pounds of Crisco, according to members of the Class of 2015 who applied the shortening. Other midshipmen turned hoses on the plebes — ostensibly to cool them from their strenuous effort and the midday heat.

“It was awesome,” shouted a soaked Bridget Lee, of Little Rock, Ark., who had lawn clippings in her hair and stuck to her skin. “I tried climbing twice, I fell both times.”

The goal is to replace the “Dixie cup” hat worn by plebes with an upperclassman’s hat at the very top.

The climb is a time-honored rite of passage for the freshman class. It’s the final hurdle for the class of nearly 1,000 plebes to overcome as a group during their first year. The event marks an end to being called plebes; now, they’re known as fourth-year midshipmen.

The Class of 2016 completed the challenge in one hour, 32 minutes and 43 seconds — far faster than the four-plus hours in 1995 when the Dixie cup was glued and taped on. The record of one minute, 30 seconds, stands from 1972, when the monument was not greased.

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