Mid captures hat -- and maybe an admiralty

May 21, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

Scores of sweaty, yelling, grease-covered midshipmen inched their way up the 21-foot Herndon Monument yesterday, the annual rite of passage from freshman year.

Peeling off T-shirts and shedding sneakers, the freshmen -- or plebes -- encircled the granite obelisk and in one human mass lifted their classmates to the top.

Legend has it that the first to reach the "dixie cup" hat perched on the top and replace it with an upperclassman's hat will be the first admiral in the class.

After 1 hour, 44 minutes and 21 seconds of grunting, sliding and near grabs, Ross Scott, 20, of Hawkinsville, Ga., stood precariously on the shoulders of a classmate and plopped the cap on top.

"I never thought it would be me. I couldn't believe it," a beaming Midshipman Scott told reporters later, after receiving a plaque with an admiral's shoulder board from Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, the academy's superintendent.

The time was roughly six minutes longer than last year's of 1:38:20, but far better than the longest to date of 3:12:23 in 1985. The fastest was one minute, 30 seconds in 1969.

It is uncertain when the first class climbed the monument, named in memory of Cmdr. William Lewis Herndon, who went down with his ship, SS Central America, in 1857.

But the ceremony seems to have started after a graduation ceremony, as sophomores rushed to cavort in the vicinity of Herndon, which had been off-limits to them while they were plebes.

Following tradition yesterday morning, sophomores covered the monument with 200 pounds of lard and carved graffiti into the thick mire, including "What's The Point" and "This Way," with an arrow pointing upward. At the top was written: "But Sir, It's Too High."

It looked more like an offering from a long-lost tribe than the passage to sophomore year at a military school. Midshipmen shrieked and yelled. Some Mids had shaved heads, others scurried around with torn shirts. Others wrote messages on their backs in black ink, one reading: "If you weren't bare, you weren't there."

Hundreds of spectators cheered from the sidelines and yelled "Awwww!!" each time the human pyramid slipped from the top.

Forty-five minutes into the event, Robert Green of Haddon Heights, N.J., reached the "dixie cup" and pulled. It didn't budge. With the cap in his grasp he did a chin-up and the crowd went wild.

Still nothing -- sophomores had cemented it to the monument with mounds of duct tape.

But the cap was loosened by the time the Georgia midshipman clambered over the heads of his classmates to victory.

Does Midshipman Scott believe he'll be the first admiral in the class? "Admiral?" he said. "I don't know. That's a long way from now."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.