BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Dozens of U.S. Naval Academy freshmen, known as plebes, gathered around a 21-foot tall obelisk covered in lard Monday in Annapolis.

Their objective: climb the slippery monument and place a hat on top to mark the end of their first year at the institution.

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The Herndon Climb is a Naval Academy tradition that dates back to 1950. The monument is named after Commander William Lewis Herndon, who went down with his ship in a hurricane in 1857.

The plebes work together in the event to remove the “dixie cup” hat from atop the obelisk and replace it with an upperclassman’s hat. But 200 pounds of lard make the climb a bit difficult.

The fasted recorded Herndon Climb time was a minute and 30 seconds in 1972, when no grease was used. The longest recorded time was in four hours and five minutes in 1998, when the dixie cup was glued and taped.

It took this class 3 hours and 37 minutes to complete their objective.

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“It marks all the success that we’ve done throughout the year,” said freshman Lauren Steinberg.

Nick McGowan of Iowa was the 20-year-old student who finally placed the upperclassman’s hat on top of the monument. His family was there to congratulate him on the accomplishment.

“It was a pretty surreal feeling,” McGowan said. “My first thought was ‘How am I going to get down,’ the second thought was ‘did I just cap Herndon?’”

The freshmen now have the hard-earned title of fourth class midshipmen.

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CBS Baltimore Staff