Well before arriving to play American University, the women's rugby team of Ohio State University had a plan to mark its visit to Washington in a way that neither the team nor anyone who saw it would soon forget.
So it was that on an idyllic fall afternoon yesterday, some members of the team lined up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and removed their rugby jerseys. And there they stood, facing the nation's Capitol, naked from the waist up.
They plan to put the bare-breasted photograph on T-shirts that will be sold on the campus in Columbus.
"We wanted to do something crazy," said Megan Cowley, the team's captain. "It's rugby. It's a crazy sport."
A crazy stunt but not illegal.
"Under D.C. law, it is not illegal to bare one's breasts," said Lt. Russ Walkowich, of the U.S. Park Police. "Realistically, the behavior is not appropriate. The Lincoln Memorial is not the place to do this. . . . If you're asking whether we condone this type of activity, no, not in the least."
No Park Police officers witnessed the prank, he said. A Washington Post photographer, on hand to cover a Pagan ritual at the memorial, recorded the rugby team in its more revealing moments.
About 15 of the 37 team members doffed their shirts. Afterward they said they wanted to shock people and to bond as a team.
"It kind of makes us closer," Cowley said.
"We're stripping friends," Trina Dutta, 20, said.
Getting naked is not uncommon in rugby. The players explained that a tradition requires them to run around naked when they score for the first time. Going topless in front of the Lincoln Memorial was an extension of that, they said.
The team members hatched the plan during their nine-hour drive from Columbus. First they discussed what would be the perfect spot. Would it be the Lincoln Memorial or the steps of the U.S. Capitol?
They voted against the Capitol for logistical reasons.
"We couldn't find any parking," Jen Jarrell, 20, said.
So they drove over to the Lincoln Memorial. Crowley, 20, was the first to take her shirt off at about 1:30 p.m.
"I wasn't worried about it. It's legal," Crowley said.
"If guys can do it, then girls should be able to do it, too."
After Crowley, the others followed.
"I didn't feel embarrassed," Gina Lynch, 20, said.
"We were holding our breath, but I can't believe I did it," Dutta said.
There was a smattering of cheers, and several tourists said they were amused.
"I say, go girl power," said Katherine Fisher, of Richmond.
"Most everyone turned around, and lots of guys stared in that direction," said Sam Haynsworth, of Portsmouth, Va.
The team's coaches said that they were unaware of the plan but that the players had hinted they would do it.
"Rugby has a very strong social side and very strong traditions," Jon Moore, the team's head coach, said after his team's 19-0 victory over American University. After the victory, the players stripped once more on the rugby pitch.
When they return to Ohio, they plan to make a T-shirt with the picture of their Lincoln Memorial experience as the centerpiece.
"It'll get us some money," Jennifer Dunlap, 21, said. "We need some money for our club."
CAPTION: Some members of the Ohio State University women's rugby team shed their tops as they pose for a photo on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.