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1924 Polo National Championship

Within two years of establishing a polo team, the University of Arizona was competing for the national crown. Having beaten four other Western college squads in a tournament held in San Antonio, the team would later travel east, accompanied by 24 horses, to take on Princeton for the title.

Before that trip, though, the UA faced a quartet of military riders from the 10th Cavalry, stationed at Fort Huachuca, in three Tucson matches.

The Army men were supremely confident and expected to prevail. But Arizona won the first match, 7-2, and then prevailed again the next day by a score of 8-4. Even though the Fort Huachuca horses were quicker, Arizona's superior teamwork allowed them to control the matches.

The same ingredients led to an 8-2 Arizona triumph in the final meeting, after which the university riders began preparations for their long train trip to the East Coast.

While the team carried the UA name, it didn't receive financial support from the university. Instead, money was raised through donations, benefits and a party on the lawn of the university president's home.

To spur on the home team in its quest for the national championship, Tucsonans were encouraged to sign a telegraph urging the Wildcats to "bring home that bacon." Mayor Rudolph Rasmessen was the first to sign, and within a few days, the telegram was 12 feet long with signatures. Among those putting their names on the telegram was Nora Nugent, who then owned the Palms Café on Congress Street and a few years later would become Tucson's first policewoman.

The national championship was played at Fort Hamilton, N.Y., and in the first match, Princeton quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Arizona riders were unfamiliar with the formations used by their opponents, and were playing on grass, whereas they were used to dirt.

Back in Tucson, hundreds of people gathered around the Tucson Citizen office on Stone Avenue to follow the results as they were posted on a scoreboard.

Princeton added individual goals in the second and third chukkers (periods), and led 4-0 at halftime. Arizona narrowed the margin after the break, but in the end, Princeton prevailed, 6-2.

The next match was even worse. Before thousands of spectators, the easterners again displayed greater teamwork and won 8-0.

Despite the losses, the Arizona team still gained recognition. Its captain, Jimmy Hearon, from Mississippi, was proclaimed the "Greatest Collegian" polo player in the United States. He was called "a dashing rider, smashing mallet man and cool-headed leader" for his performance on the field of play.

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