Plebes no more: U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2022 climbs the Herndon Monument.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Plebes no more! Naval Academy freshmen complete Herndon Monument Climb

May 20, 2019 - 5:01 pm

By Ben Krimmel

All that stood between the plebes of the U.S. Naval Academy's Class of 2022 and becoming fourth class midshipmen was a 21-foot greased obelisk.

After 1:05:05 on a hot Monday afternoon in Annapolis, it was Midshipmen Christian Schwien, 19 of Fairfax, Virginia, who was able to toss an upperclassman's hat atop the Herndon Monument and the 1,000 or so freshmen were plebes no more. 

The class of 1991 mastered the task in just under an hour blowing away the Class of 2021 who needed 2:09:23. 

The U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2022 climbs the Herndon Monument.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

For the last 70 years, freshmen at the Naval Academy, known as plebes, must scale the monument and remove a traditional plebe hat or "dixie cup" from the top of the obelisk and replace it with an upperclassman's cap. The challenge? The monument has been greased with about 50 pounds of vegetable shortening and forces the plebes to use teamwork and a whole lot of muscle to make the switch. 

The Class of 2022 needed just over 65 minutes to complete the task, far shorter than the 4:05:17 seconds the Class of 1998 required. However, rumor has it the dixie cup was glued and taped to the top of the monument.

The fastest plebe class came in 1972 when they accomplished the feat in just 90 seconds thanks to a greaseless obelisk. (An non-greased Herndon Monument was defeated in just over two minutes in 2010.)

(And, in case you wanted to see the full video, here you go. The action begins at 11:57.)

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