Leaves drifted on the Black River under rope as thick as an arm, unaffected by the carnal uproar on either side. Words like blood, war, legacy and slaughter written black on the arms and faces of youth in their prime, struggling against a team that is as dedicated and motivated. Looking at pictures, it would not be difficult to mistake the scene for some type of combat zone. But an observer who has heard the rumors surrounding the annual tribulation knows better: This is The Pull. Weeks of practice leading up to three hours of grueling exertion where teams of seventeen, as well as one “anchor” heavy-hitter, tug against each other from across Black River. Pits are dug, and enormous banners are raised.
This is no juvenile tug-of-war – injuries are expected and the competition is as mental as it is physical. Those who commit to the tradition knowingly sacrifice their time and sometimes even their well-being. To determine the winner of the competition, the rope accrued on either side is measured. However, what complicates the process of deciding the victor is the fact that the rope will literally stretch over time due to the force. This includes not only the pullers in the pits but their “moralers” too. The moralers are in charge of encouraging and taking care of their teammate – the two even share corresponding nicknames.
This year’s event was quite a spectacle, full of highs and lows; on the Even-Year side, there was a noteworthy amount of chaos. Two of the pits required use of their “sprinters” or backup pullers. This was not for lack of effort by any means; coaches were heavily involved and EMT’s even had to step in when certain pullers literally faced exhaustion.
Although pullers were the ones who physically handled the brunt of the task, the moralers played a crucial part in maintaining the team. Kevin “Looming” Timmermann, puller #17 spoke on this. “If I didn’t have a moraler, there’s no way I would have stayed on that rope.” The role of moralers is not to be overlooked because, as we can see, their job can make the difference between failure and glory. The Odd-Year team claimed victory at the end, having pulled in 6’ 5” of the lumbering cord. Winners of the oh-so-coveted competition, the class of ’21 took their time enjoying their victory, basking in the cold much of the Black River.
This is a tradition that goes back to the event’s earliest days and it is carried on annually by the event’s winners; this was the second consecutive year that they earned the privilege of doing so. It is expected that many of the pullers will go on to become coaches next year, as well. In this fashion, the game continues year after year, drawing crowds in astounding numbers. The famed Hope tradition has run for 121 years and is liable to continue for 121 more.