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Sell-Out Crowd Expected at Annapolis Cup

April 13, 2018 | By Tim Pratt

Chris McGowen (A19) lines up a shot at the 2017 Annapolis Cup.

The 36th annual Annapolis Cup croquet match is set to take place in front of a sell-out crowd April 14 at historic St. John’s College.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the match between St. John’s and the neighboring United States Naval Academy. The event begins at 1 p.m. on the college’s front lawn.

St. John’s has won the match 28 of 35 times, including the last three years. Tickets for this year’s event sold out in four days.

“It’s a good time for everybody in town, but it’s also fun to have St. John’s and Naval Academy students share something in common,” says St. John’s Imperial Wicket Shane Hettler (A18).

Hettler and Midshipman 1st-Class Jacob Priester, the Navy captain, describe the rivalry as friendly, but competitive. Both teams want to win, but they also feel a sense of camaraderie.

“It’s a great time with thousands of people, and it’s a great opportunity for us to meet with the Johnnies,” Priester says. “If we weren’t playing croquet together, I don’t think I’d know too many people over here at this (St. John’s) campus.”

A portion of the front lawn is lined for tent spaces.

Neither Hettler nor Priester played croquet before they came to Annapolis. Hettler is from California; Priester is from Arkansas.

Shortly after arriving at St. John’s, Hettler happened to meet two members of the croquet team. He gave croquet a try, and took to it immediately. He especially appreciates the strategy of the game.

This is now Hettler’s second year as imperial wicket—the equivalent of a captain. He and his teammates practice at least twice a week, and play often in between.

“It’s fun (and) it’s relaxing,” Hettler says. “You spend a lot of time here reading and thinking, so sometimes it’s nice to come out and hit balls.”

Priester is part of 28th Company at the Academy, from which the Navy team is selected. Like Hettler and the St. John’s team, Priester and the Midshipmen play as often as they can.

“As long as you have a patch of grass, you can play,” he says.

The sprawling front lawn at St. John’s will feature three grass courts, around which spectators will congregate. Beverages will be available for purchase. Food trucks also will be on hand.

Imperial Wicket Shane Hettler (A18) challenges the Naval Academy croquet team in Bancroft Hall.

The Navy’s Trident Brass Band will play throughout the afternoon. The brick walkway in front of the Barr Buchanan Center will serve as the dance floor.

The Annapolis Cup began in the early 1980s as a way to foster better relations between St. John’s and the Naval Academy. It has since grown into one of the city’s most popular events.

At the 2017 Annapolis Cup, the pairing of Chris McGowen (A19) and Sean Miller (A20) secured a 3-2 win for the Johnnies in a dramatic final game. The Johnnies visited the Naval Academy April 13 to formally challenge the Midshipmen to the 2018 match.

For more details, visit the 2018 Annapolis Cup information page.