Naval Academy 'plebes' complete annual pole climb
May 21, 1999
From CNN's Paul Courson
ANNAPOLIS (CNN) -- The Class of '02 at the U.S. Naval Academy Friday closed out part of their freshman tradition by scaling a 21-foot grease-covered monument to swap a "plebe" cap for one of a midshipman in a tradition designed to illustrate the merits of teamwork.
It took two hours, seven minutes and 41 seconds for the rising sophomores to complete the challenge, creating a human pyramid that enabled them to replace the plebe "Dixie cup" head cover which had been taped securely to the obelisk by thoughtful upperclassmen.
Last year's class was on hand to hose down the slippery challengers, who were hoping to beat the 1998 time of two hours, 22 minutes and 59 seconds.
The record for the longest bid is held by the Class of '98, at four hours, five minutes and 17 seconds.
The latest try puts the incoming midshipmen at about mid-pack when looking at the record books kept since 1965, even though the tradition dates back many more, unrecorded years.
The fastest time to accomplish the two-part task of removing one cap and replacing it with another is held by the Class of '72, at one minute, 30 seconds.
Midshipmen hold to a belief that the person who manages the feat becomes the first of their class to reach the rank of admiral.
Those hopes this year now rest with 20-year-old Jason Patrick Fahy of Wayland, New York. He told CNN he was very disappointed when he lost his grip and fell from his perch after removing the plebe hat.
"Nobody had really taken the lard off the top yet, so it was still pretty slick," Fahy said. "I got up there, lost it, but then the guys just recovered and it happened again."
One of the women in the freshman class managed to get within an arm's length of the top, and held the position for more than 10 minutes as others tried to hold the human link to thrust onward and upward.
The woman, Megan Varney, told CNN it takes organized teamwork. "If you link arms like this, then when people pull on you, you won't move. So as long as you have a full circle around, it's much better."
The event opens a week of festivities including a practice run by the Navy's precision flight team, the Blue Angels, ahead of Wednesday's commissioning, when the Class of '99 becomes the latest to receive their diplomas and commissions as military officers.
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