Eighteen people downed by heat exhaustion. One broken toe. One case of hypothermia. One severe asthma attack. And nearly 1,000 caked in mud and sweat, trembling with exhaustion.
That's how the Naval Academy measures success.
Three days after its Sea Trials -- a new daylong endurance test for freshmen -- the academy said yesterday that the event had the desired effect: It forced weary midshipmen to work as teammates to survive a grueling 12 hours of push-ups, obstacle courses, relay races and more push-ups.
"I saw some tremendous teamwork, team-building, a great feeling of camaraderie," Rear Adm. Gary Roughead, the academy's commandant, said yesterday. Because Saturday's event was closed to the public, academy officials and students held a news conference about the results.
Sea Trials was the brainchild of academy superintendent Adm. Charles R. Larson, who had wanted to create a new "defining moment" for freshmen, called "plebes." Their first year is filled with extra responsibilities, rituals and harassment from upperclassmen, and Larson wanted some of those restrictions to ease a month earlier than usual -- after one last hurdle.
Plebes learned early yesterday that they could now stay up an hour later each night (until midnight) and would not have to perform some of the menial tasks of plebe life (such as memorizing "chow calls," which are lists of each day's meal and other assorted trivia).
Plebes said yesterday they had no idea what to expect from Sea Trials, because they were purposely left in the dark. Tiffany Bell of Logan, Ohio, said she thought each plebe would have to do 800 push-ups. And Lucas Mixon of Bunkie, La., said he and his classmate shaved their heads the night before to psyche themselves up for the expected torture.
It was, indeed, torture. Plebes had to carry a railroad tie two miles. They had to tread water in the academy pool and pass rifles over their heads. Then, when they thought it was over, and the 1,000 ragtag plebes met at 6: 30 Saturday night, they were told they had to run another three miles.
But they only had to do a mile before upperclassmen led them into Halsey Field House, where music and pizza waited.
"There were about five big guys who came up to me in tears," said Todd Fowler, one of the seniors who coordinated Sea Trials.
Academy officials hope the 12-hour "gut check" will join the other rituals that have been honed over a century and a half.
And despite some scrapes and bruises, said Sarah Rhoads, another upperclassman coordinator, "I think overall, the injuries were kept to a minimum."
Pub Date: 4/22/98