By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
The dynamic Purple Pre-Game Party, deafening roars during games, admired status as one of the nation’s top college basketball student sections -- all of these factors might prompt the Grand Canyon University community to reason that maintaining the Havocs' vaulted position is a given, a process on automatic pilot. Yet that is not the case, according to the newest edition of Havocs leaders. Maintaining the relentless support, the all-in voices and the movements is up to the 2018-19 version of the Havocs.
“It is completely up to the incoming students and the current students. That’s all them,’’ said Shelby Langston, Co-President of the Havocs. “We facilitate and give them the means to do that, but it would not be exciting if it was just the 10 of us.’’
Jake Bradshaw, Langston's fellow Co-President, concurred: “I also want to emphasize: It takes every single student.’’
That’s why Lope-A-Palooza is so important. Along with being an amazingly entertaining event, featuring the Thundering Heard Pep Band, Cheer team, Dance team, Thunder and the men’s and women’s soccer teams, it is integral to teaching new students – all of whom are automatically members of the Havocs – the synchronized moves of the several thousand Havocs who attend athletics contests, particularly men’s basketball games.
“There are so many people that have bought in, who love GCU and that will come to an event like this (Lope-A-Palooza) -- that’s what makes it so fun, that’s where you build friendships,’’ Bradshaw said. “ My freshman year, that’s how I made all my friends, and that’s why I am so passionate about it. We rely on the returning Havocs a lot to teach the freshman class. So if a freshman is standing next to a junior, they are going to learn all the chants, every part of Game Day from them. ‘’
Havocs leaders have been planning Lope-A-Palooza since last April. All summer long, the returning leaders met weekly to plan the event, which begins Thursday at 7:49 p.m. (tied to 1949, the inaugural year of the University). Typically, students line up beginning at 3 or 4 p.m. and the doors open at 7:15 p.m. A dance cam, showing students dancing on the large overhead screen, begins at 7:35 p.m. Havocs leaders have carefully and repeatedly tweaked the timeline to produce a dynamic evening, followed by a concert with a mystery (surprise) artist.
“We’ve had a few years’ experience, so we know what works and what doesn’t,’’ Bradshaw said. “With Lope-A-Palooza, we try to keep it really simple. The purpose is for all these students on campus to have their first interaction with the Havocs and GCU athletics to show what we do at GCU athletics. The event is geared toward the freshmen, but all grades can come.’’
Since the opening of the women’s and men’s home soccer season is the following night, the salsa band will play the drums and teach students the chants and “grooves’’ it will employ amid the soccer matches. Members of both teams will toss T-shirts and teach a post-game chant, and the women’s volleyball team will introduce themselves via video since they are out-of-town at a road match.
Havocs leaders, who spent Thursday morning on the grass fields in a team-building event with Cheer, Dance, the Thundering Heard and Thunder, will be even busier before Lope-A-Palooza – they plan to visit every residence hall to meet the newest GCU students.
“We try to meet every incoming freshman and transfer and talk with them on their Move-In day,’’ said Langston. “We want to get them plugged in with something, and it gives their parents some confidence, too, leaving them here knowing they have something planned out for the week and there is someone coming to their door, offering to get them plugged in. It’s a good thing, and then we advertise Lope-A-Palooza with flyers and we use social media."
Havocs leaders Tanner Snyder and Apryl Thimsen are the marketing and content creators who manage the Havocs’ Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat accounts. Their sense of humor is evident. For example, on Independence Day their Tweet read: “We like our coffee from GCBC49 and our tea in the harbor! Happy Birthday, America." Prior to Circus Day at GCU Ballpark, they showed four Lopes baseball players in a golf cart driving away from a teammate who would futilely chase them, drawing close only to be boomeranged away from them again.
Each leader utilizes different skill sets and contacts.
“We want to make sure we are bringing in new leaders who bring something different to the table,’’ Langston said. “Like Tanner does Photoshop and photography, which we’ve never had before, and Apryl is an RA (Resident Assistant) as well, so her big thing is community. She has relationships with the RD’s (Resident Directors) in all the dorms, and Titus (Converse) knows every fact about every GCU sporting team, which is insanely helpful. ‘’
Converse is also known for wearing a diaper and eating a pineapple, perhaps the most extreme case of a Havocs leader developing a persona through sartorial selection. Although they often change their looks for theme games, generally Bradshaw wears a purple helmet, purple shoulder pads and spiky hair; Langston dons a silver windbreaker, silver shorts, a fanny pack and glittery shoes; Snyder wears purple cheer soffe shorts, white tube socks with purple stripes and a fanny pack; Thimsen loves glitter, Crocs and a visor; and Tannor Bach, the vice president, wears high top purple Converse, denim shorts and a denim jacket.
Along with their outfits, they are passionate about passing on Game Day traditions. Snyder, for example, loves it when the huge banner drops across the center of the student section during the Purple Pre-Game Party. He also gets jazzed about “the point’’ when all students point at the opposing team leading up to tipoff.
Along with many of his peers, he revels in Thunder Praise, the mascot routine in which Thunder climbs up to the center of all the students, who greet him with the Lopes Up signal in unison. Another favored synchronized move is the arm swing in rhythm with the song "We Like to Party" amid the Purple Pre-Game Party. Another popular song routine, favored by Thimsen, is a remix of “Listen to your heart.’’
“My favorite part of being a Havoc is the relationships that I get to build with everyone,’’ Thimsen said. “I am a very outgoing person, so being able to just talk with people in line for the tailgate or at the games is one of my favorite parts.’’
Thimsen finds plenty of people to talk to amid one of the Havocs' favorite traditions, Camp Elliott, so-named for Elliott, the first student to ever camp out in line for a game. During Camp Elliott, students line up in the quad to hold their places for Midnight Madness and key basketball games, such as New Mexico State. Interaction with the community is part of the Havoc leaders' calling, too. For example, they volunteered to till the Urban Farm at St. Vincent de Paul on Saturday.
In summary, Bach said: “It is cool progression because freshman year we started going to Lope-A-Palooza, experiencing it, and then sophomore year we started as rookie Havocs leaders. As a rookie Havocs leader, you’re not here all summer. But then as a returning leader, you’re here all summer long, meeting once per week with every single part of the spirit programs. And then you get to see the event go on, and you know you helped plan it. As a group we made that and that is the fifth (timeline) we’ve made a change to, so it is a cool progression to see everything fall into place.’’
There are 10 Havoc leaders, including six returning leaders:
Name/position/year in school/hometown/major
Shelby Langston, co-president, senior, Chandler, marketing, Honors College
Jake Bradshaw, co-president, senior, Olympia, Wash., accounting
Tannor Bach, vice-president, junior, Phoenix, sports management, Honors College
Tanner Snyder: marketing and content creator, junior, Pueblo, Colo., marketing and advertising, Honors College
Apryl Thimsen, marketing and content creator, junior, Puyallup, Wash., marketing and advertising
Titus Converse, activities coordinator, senior, Sacramento, Calif., sports management
The newcomer Havocs leaders moved in earlier this week:
Antonio Borjas, Rookie Leader, sophomore, Fresno, Calif., sports management
Andre Fitzmaurice, Rookie Leader, Junior, Dulzura, Calif., sports management
Alexa Kowalski, Rookie Leader, Sophomore, Mesa, elementary education
Claire Belmear, Rookie Leader, Sophomore, Durango, Colo., marketing and advertising
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].
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