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A greasy, monumental ritual at the Naval Academy ends after more than 2 hours

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — It took Naval Academy plebs two hours, 19 minutes and 11 seconds Wednesday to accomplish the pinnacle of upward mobility: climbing a greased obelisk and replacing a cup with a cap.

The grueling, slippery annual ritual marking the end of the popular year ended with Californian Ben Leisegang, 20, standing victorious on the shoulders of dozens of classmates and placing an upper-class man’s hat on top of the Herndon Monument.

The Class of 2027 worked together to climb the 20-foot obelisk covered in vegetable shortening to replace the white plebs’ “Dixie Cup Hat” with the upper-class man’s hat. There are about 1,300 plebs in the class, according to academy spokeswoman Elizabeth B. Wrightson. Once the ascension is complete, they are called fourth-class midshipmen, not plebs.

It is said that whoever wears the hat atop the monument will be the first admiral of the class.

The plebs linked their arms around the base of the monument to build a pyramid, removing grease from the surface of the monument and enduring a constant spray of soaking pipes.

After about two hours, a plebe finally came close enough to place the upper-class man’s hat near the top of the obelisk, but the Dixie Cup remained in place. Minutes later, the same plebs whipped the top of the obelisk, still lathered with white shortening, with a waterlogged shirt, knocking off the upper-class man’s hat.

The hat was returned, and he finally slipped the upperclassman’s hat into place, knocking the Dixie Cup’s hat over and eliciting thunderous cheers from the crowd below.

Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Yvette M. Davids congratulated the class and introduced Leisegang, a midshipman fourth class from Rancho Santa Margarita, California. He is in the 4th Company.

“All I have to say is: We went there. We executed on the controllables, and it worked together,” Leisegang said. “Let’s go!”

Noting that they are one link in a chain, Davids delivered messages from the Class of 1977, urging them to never forget what it means to be a pleb and asking them to give “fair winds and fair seas” to the graduating class. of 2077.

“You represent so many things, not just the past but also the future,” Davids said.

The ascent began in 1940, and the placing of an officer’s cap on top of the obelisk to show that they had conquered the plebs that year took place seven years later, according to a history of the event written by James Cheevers, former senior curator of the United States Naval Academy Museum. . The upperclassmen first coated the monument with grease to increase the difficulty in 1949. They first placed the Dixie Cup atop the monument before the climb in 1962.

Records of the time it took each class to climb the monument are not complete, but the shortest time is reported to be 1 minute and 30 seconds in 1969, the year the monument was not greased. The longest lasted more than four hours in 1995, when upperclassmen stuck the Dixie Cup together.

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