The Pull, first held in 1898, is an annual fall highlight at Hope. In the competition, freshman and sophomore teams, entrenched in shallow pits on opposite sides of the river, attempt to gain the most rope through their strength and stamina.
Each team has 18 students on the rope as “pullers,” and another 18 acting as guides and morale boosters, or “moralers.” The freshmen are coached by the junior class while the sophomores are instructed by the seniors. The coaching arrangement also leads to a rivalry between the even-year and odd-year classes.
This year’s Pull will pit members of the Classes of 2015 (sophomores) and 2016 (freshmen) against one another. As freshmen, the Class of 2015 won last year’s Pull, held on Saturday, Oct. 1.
The freshmen (even-year) will be on the north side of the river (nearest Lakewood Boulevard) and the sophomores (odd-year) will be on the south side of the river (nearest M-21/Chicago Drive).
A two-page summary of Pull-related information is below. For more information, contact Dr. Richard Frost, who is vice president for student development and dean of students at Hope, at (616) 395-7940.
Assorted Pull Facts
• It is generally believed that the Pull tug-of-war was first held in 1898. The event is mentioned in the November, 1898, issue of the college’s student newspaper,The Anchor, although no record of the outcome appears. The college held a major celebration marking the event’s 100th year in 1997.
• The informal nature of the event in its early years means that details from the Pull’s early history (pre-1909) are sketchy. It is known that there were at least four years that the Pull was not held: 1918, 1943 and 1944 (war years), and 1957 (when, according to the student paper at the time, a flu epidemic on campus prompted its cancellation).
• Only three buildings on campus are older than the Pull:
Van Vleck Hall (1857)
Graves Hall (dedicated 1894)
President’s Home (completed 1896)
• During the Pull, each team has 18 students on the rope as “pullers,” and another 18 acting as guides and morale boosters, or “moralers.” The freshmen are coached by the junior class, while the sophomores are instructed by the seniors. The coaching arrangement also leads to a rivalry between the even-year and odd-year classes.
• Long held on a Friday afternoon, the event was moved to Saturday in 1993 (Sept. 25) to allow more to attend and to avoid conflicts with the college’s academic schedule.
The longest Pull, held in 1977, was 3 hours and 51 minutes in duration, and was called a draw. (The event is now limited to three hours maximum, a change implemented in 1978. At the end of the three hours, the judges may declare a winner by measuring gain.)
• The shortest Pull, held in 1956, was 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
• The current rope has been in use since the fall of 2006. It is 600 feet long and weighs approximately 1,000 pounds. It comes from the Philippines and is made of Manila hemp. The tenure of the three previous ropes was 2000 through 2005, 1997 through 1999, and 1990 through 1996.
• 1995 was the first year that a woman was chosen to be a puller (Keri Law ’99 of Niles, Mich., who was also a puller during the 1996 contest as a sophomore). It is believed that 1994 was the first year that a woman tried out as a puller (Nina Bieliauskas ’97 of Ann Arbor, Mich., who in the end was a moraler).
• There have been four draws since 1909: 1916, 1926, 1952 and 1977. The 1926 competitors later held a basketball game as a tie-breaker (which the sophomores won). The 1977 event was called a tie after running 3 hours and 51 minutes.
• It's possible for the rope to break, such as happened in 1974. In that year, a new one was obtained and the match was held on the following Monday.
• The margin of victory is sometimes slim. In 1995, for example, the sophomore Class of ’98 won by only 2 feet, 10 inches.
• Since 1909, the sophomores have won 64 times to the freshman class’s 31. The last sophomore win was in 2010. The last freshman victory was in 2011.
• Since 1909, the even-year class has won 54 times to the odd-year class’s 41. The last even-year victory was in 2009. The last odd-year victory was in 2011.
• The last time that the Pull concluded before the three-hour maximum duration was on Oct. 3, 2009, when the event was ended and declared a sophomore Class of 2012 victory, with a gain of 82 feet, after one hour and eight minutes, after the freshman Class of 2013 had lost four Pullers. The 2008 Pull was declared a sophomore Class of 2011 victory with a gain of 71 feet after one hour and seven minutes.
• The Class of ’11 was the last class to win in both its freshman and sophomore years (in 2007 and 2008). A total of 19 classes have won as both freshmen and sophomores (the Classes of 1924, 1927, 1934, 1936, 1938, 1943, 1949, 1958, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1975, 1978, 1982, 1989, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2011).
• In 2011, the freshman Class of ’15 defeated the sophomore Class of ’14 on Saturday, Oct. 1, by 38 feet, seven inches in a contest that ran the entire three hours.