ANNAPOLIS, MD (CBS) – Naval Academy freshmen are fighting their way up the Herndon Monument Monday in this year’s epic challenge.
The event signifies when “plebes” (freshmen) officially become 4th class midshipmen after surviving a grueling and intense first year at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
The tradition started in 1940 when plebes convinced classmates to sit on top of the monument as a metaphor of their first year’s survival. In 1946, upperclassmen thought it looked too easy, so they added grease.
The 21 foot high monument is covered in about 50 pounds of vegetable shortening applied by midshipmen of the 1st Company.
Legend has it that the person who replaces the Dixie cup at the top of the monument with the midshipman cover will be the first in their class to make admiral — the cap must be placed on the top, it must not be thrown.
The fastest finish time was done by the Class of 1972 when it was completed in one minute and 30 seconds without grease and the slowest time was the class of 1998 when it took four hours five minutes and 17 seconds.
Last year it took the Class of 2021 two hours, nine minutes and 35 seconds to complete.
Students say the keys to victory are building a human pyramid quickly before getting too muddy and greasy and placing larger people on the bottom with the lighter people climbing up.