It was sunup yesterday when Naval Academy freshmen began the gauntlet of physical tests known as Sea Trials. And for 14 hours they came one after the other: races, tugs of war, rope climbing, swimming and boating, all over the Yard and on the banks of the Severn River.
The event is considered the culmination of midshipmen's first year at the Annapolis academy. Obstacles are meant to challenge plebes in endurance, teamwork, problem-solving and teach leadership in times of stress.
"If they go to war or go to sea, there will be days that last longer than this," academy spokeswoman Judy Campbell said. "Days without Gatorade."
Some of the course took place in public, with all 1,100 plebes required to run a route 3 miles over the Naval Academy Bridge with his or her company, wearing camouflage uniforms and black boots.
Lying in muddy puddles doing sit-ups was another treat dreamed up for the freshman class by the upperclassmen directing the day's events.
Evan Werner, a junior midshipman from Pittsburgh, said as he kept an eye on plebes doing exercises on a playing field: "It's a group effort to get through the entire year."
Cadres said they set up yesterday's relay races to reward winners and give them more rest breaks. The message was simple: In the Navy, it pays to be a winner. With tomorrow's freshman class effort to scale the greased Herndon monument, they said, the plebe experience comes to a close.