Photos by Kelly Ocock & Melissa Bazany
Three hours. Two teams. One rope.
To quote the Anchor from Nov. 1898, “Come out and see the tug-of-war between the Sophomores and the A’s and Freshmen.”
If you saw the Pull up close, you know the sophomores of the class of 2019 brought the odd year pull team to victory on Saturday, Oct. 1. Freshmen and sophomores compete across the Black River every fall, battling one another with a rope as their only tether.
The 119th pull ended after two hours and forty-six minutes, with Odd Year winning by 54’ 9” of rope against Even Year. The rope has been in use since 2013. It is 600 feet long, 2.5 inches in diameter and weighs approximately 1,000 pounds.
The Pull, one of Hope College’s longest running traditions is an extreme tug-of-war that requires hours of commitment. There are only three buildings on campus older than the pull: Van Vleck Hall, Graves Hall and the President’s home. The event began in 1896.
Becoming a member of a Pull team takes hard work and constant dedication. There are three weeks of practice in the month of Sep., with long hours and muddy days. Each team has a total of 36 members.
For every puller, there is a moraler. There are 18 pullers, who take on the rope, and 18 moralers, who support the pullers and keep them focused. The moralers give instructions to the pullers from their coaches, who were upperclassmen from the class of 2016 and ‘17. As the pullers put all their strength on the rope and in the pit, their moralers chant and tell them when to pull and when to rest.
The rivalry between Odd Year and Even Year is apparent, but winning is not the only thing. Hearing from Pull participants exhibits that the Pull is about friendship, teamwork and pushing oneself to extremes they never thought possible.
“Winning the pull is so much more than just pulling 55 feet of rope. It proved that 40 individuals were able to come together and work as one.” Moraler Bailey Berberich (19) said. “We came in hardly even knowing each other’s names and by the end we were helping to push each other to limits we did not even know were possible.”
The Pull flag separates the teams. Every year, the pain and endurance pushes the pullers past their limits. They work together to beat an opponent they cannot see. The moralers give the signal, and then the heave of the rope begins. They pull with everything they have and more. The Pull can last up to three long hours, but the three hours are worth it as it will give these teams memories that will last a lifetime.
The Pull is an old tradition that still touches campus. It takes over Hope each year, showing heart and perseverance of Hope students.
The Pull is a unique and stamina straining competition. Through the years, the sophomores and even-year classes have held their own on the winning scoreboard. Since 1909, the sophomores have been victorious in 68 pulls to the freshman class’s 31; the Even and Odd Year split is 57 to 43.
Due to new rules placed in 1978, the strain and lengthiness of The Pull was shortened slightly. In 1977, The Pull set a record as the sophomores and freshmen tugged for three hours and 51 minutes before judges called a tie because it was getting too dark to see. The new rules also allowed the judges to determine the winning team by measuring the amount of rope pulled from the other team if a side had not claimed the entire rope within the three hours.
In contrast, the shortest Pull lasted two minutes and 40 seconds in 1956.
The Pull has gone through many changes over the decades. The techniques used today are fairly recent changes. Even though The Pull had evolved from its beginning in a different era, it has aged well. The students who began this tradition long ago may have had no idea what they were starting, but the legacy lives on today.
“The Pull is a strange tradition that very few people understand, but I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given,” Berberich shared. “I would give anything to relive Pull day.”