Williams wins Mr. GCU on night of hilarious tributes
Story by Jeannette Cruz
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau
Hundreds of students lined up outside Grand Canyon University Arena with their homework, dinner, quiz notes and their friends Tuesday evening for the 16th annual Mr. GCU competition, a highly anticipated event that showcases the many talents of male students on campus. This year, it was themed “The Thunder Games.”
One of those students was Alexandra Steffes, who had arrived at 3 p.m. A loyal Mr. GCU attendee, Steffes said she was assured it would be a phenomenal night.
“It’s a male pageant and it’s not about attractiveness – it’s about hilariousness,” she said.
To kick off the popular event in GCU Arena, the eight contestants or “tributes” surprised the audience when they ran down from different corners of the arena and on stage to perform a hip hop routine. They then were introduced along with their escorts and presented each of their escorts with a gift.
(Before we go more in to detail, we should start with a brief Thunder Games 101: The Tributes are residents of the 12 districts of Panem, who are volunteered to participate in an annual Hunger Games. An escort is a citizen of the Capitol whose main duty is to accompany the tributes of their assigned district and teach them how to behave properly and to help them fit in with the guidelines of the Capitol.)
“It just made sense because The Hunger Games is a bit of a competition, only here it’s without the life-or-death component while staying true to GCU,” said Scott Kolmer, GCU’s student activities coordinator. “We really want the people in this competition to represent what we think Mr. GCU should be. Yes, talented. Yes, funny. But also someone with good character.”
After the eight contestants performed in a talent competition, the arena was narrowed to three for the interview segment. In the end, junior Daniel Williams, an early crowd favorite, was crowned the 2018 Mr. GCU. Other finalists included Bill Babyar and Leif Grigsby.
Williams and Grigsby were the standouts in the talent competition, which included rapping and a fife performance.
Babyar demanded to bring back the app Vine and “dad bod.”
Brandon Yamaguchi showed off his dance skills.
Josh Miller, of District Impressions, mocked Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and President Trump.
Colson Franse performed a crazy magic trick that had audience members on the edge of their seats and left them scratching their heads. Franse began on stage with a table and six envelopes. Then he asked a random student in the audience to give up her cell phone. Next, she labeled the envelopes one to six and placed a cell phone in each envelope, including her own. Franse then turned around as the student rolled a die, and the crowd watched as Franse destroyed each selected envelope with a hammer and a bucket of water. In the end, the student’s phone survived.
Tyler Weeks and his friends performed a hilarious synchronized swimming skit with a fireworks backdrop and music from Moana, Titanic and The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men.”
And Jadon Wilson, District Garden, poured heartfelt lyrics with all the emotion he’d written them in as the roar of the crowd encouraged him.
The overall talent was “creative, surprising and awkward at times,” according to judge Dr. Tim Griffin, GCU’s Pastor and Dean of Students. Other judges included Director of Student Care Chase Kerrey and Miss Arizona USA Nicole Smith. The emcee was Caleb Duarte.
Williams and Grigsby took more bold approaches with their talents. Williams turned his experience at GCU into a rap song dedicated to President Brian Mueller while the audience sang along, “Brian Mueller is my dad.” Grigsby, dressed in a colonial boy costume, played a fife while the audience waved illuminated cell phones.
Kerrey said of Weeks’ performance, “I just appreciated your spreading awareness of the psychological consequences of icebergs (referring to his tribute to Titanic). It is powerful and it is real.”
Smith said, “I am proud of how comfortable you are with yourself.”
After his performance, Duarte motioned Wilson off to the side and said, “This song obviously had a message behind it. Can you please take the audience into what that is and what it means to you?”
Wilson replied, “To honestly and transparently highlight the shadows of what it’s like to go to school and to find your way. I really want to offer myself as a friend for somebody that’s lonely, and I want to make it clear that even with our holes in our lives and in our hearts, Jesus still loves us because He has holes, too.”
During their interviews, the contestant were asked about their ideal first dates, their favorite Disney movie and what it would mean for them to win Mr. GCU.
When Williams was crowned Mr. GCU, he said it was a dream come true.
“First of all, all glory to God because He gives us all of our talents,” he said. “Everyone deserved this in some way, but I will say it’s a huge honor and something I’ve thought about for a long time – praise God. This is one of the coolest feelings ever.”
His mom, Jennifer Williams, had flown all the way from Wisconsin just to witness the event, and she said the flight was worth it.
“This really has been a dream of his since he came to GCU, so this is amazing,” she said. “I knew he had a chance.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.