Harvey Mudd College students’ elaborate heist of Caltech’s Fleming Cannon in 1986 is a historic moment in Mudd’s pranking lore. While the pranks have died down between the two schools since, the engineering powerhouses have reignited their rivalry on a very different stage: Division III athletics.
In sports that score individuals — like track and swimming — Mudd athletes are able to distinguish themselves from their Claremont McKenna College and Scripps College teammates, and see how they stack up against their STEM school rivals.
When the women’s swim and dive team has at least four Mudd swimmers, they’ll create an all-Mudd relay to compete against Caltech. However, this isn’t always feasible.
“This year was a little unfortunate because we only had three ‘Mudd-thenas,’ so we couldn’t make a relay, which was really sad,” Stephanie Blankley HM ’20 said.
In track and field, Mudd athletes will sometimes aim to outscore Caltech in point totals on their own.
Distance runner Morgan Blevins HM ’19 said that since Mudd and Caltech “are more comparable sizes of schools” — as opposed to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps as a whole, which typically outscores Caltech by a large margin — it can be competitive when the schools match up against each other.
The same is true in swimming. However, in both sports, the Mudd athletes don’t consider it much of a real rivalry overall, because the Caltech teams have historically been less competitive than CMS.
Blankley said part of what allows them to create an all-Mudd relay purely for fun is that they aren’t concerned about losing the meet.
“We’re gonna win it anyway,” Blankley said. Caltech swimming is on the rise, however, as the women posted a best-ever sixth-place SCIAC finish last season, and the men also finished sixth with multiple individual conference champions.
Regardless of the level of competition, the athletes on both teams pay tribute to the historic rivalry with cheers during meets.
According to Blevins, the track team will specifically cheer on Mudd runners to chase down the Caltech runners in front of them.
All Mudders from the CMS swim and dive teams do a special cheer together before each meet with Caltech. The cheer goes as follows: “Sin cosine, cosine sin; 3.14159. Acceleration, force and mass; Harvey Mudd will kick your ass.”
While she enjoys the “camaraderie” between the two schools, Blevins said the current rivalry is somewhat dull in comparison to the tales that Mudd upperclassmen gather the first-years in Case Dorm to tell.
“I think it’s more that the glory days of the rivalry have kind of passed,” Blevins said.
The current rivalry is more “academic,” according to Reese Peterson HM ’20.
As two of the top engineering schools in the country, the students’ workloads don’t leave much time for the prank wars of the past.
“It would be fun to have a rivalry, but at the same time both schools are working so hard toward their own goals that neither see it as a good use of time,” Peterson said.