By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
The night the lights went out at Grand Canyon University is destined to become another highlight for the Havocs and their Spirit entities: Thundering Heard Pep Band, Cheer, Dance and Thunder. Over the years, how many will claim that they were part of a Lope-A-Palooza crowd that caused a power outage?
The official tally was over 7,000, and seemingly 6,000 turned on their cell phone lights so fast that it appeared to be part of the plan to plunge the GCU Arena into darkness.
In fact, despite more than five timeline changes by the relentless planning of the Spirit Teams before the event, their best plan was adjusting on the fly, beginning with needing to open the doors one hour early because of the threat of a storm. The result was arguably the best Lope-A-Palooza ever as the students in the crowd – including thousands of freshmen learning the Havocs' routines – sang, danced and clapped to pre-event music and marveled in the talents of the Spirit entities, including the Thundering Heard, which reacted instantly by replacing the deejay music with their own sounds.
“At first, we thought that was how Lope-A-Palooza was going to start because it was a smooth transition and the marching band went right out,’’ said Havocs member Hannah Rowlands, a sophomore from Moorpark, Calif. “But then we realized the emergency lights kicked on and some of the Cheer coaches went out on the floor and we surmised that it wasn’t a planned event. I’m really not surprised that we were so loud with so many freshmen coming into GCU this year. I knew we’d have a lot more energy.’’
The power outage and the bonus time prompted by the threat of the storm combined for a different vibe, according to Cheer team member Austin Diering, a sophomore from Denver.
“When the crowd is let in early, something’s different, something’s new, so they were a little bit more excited and we were able to feed off their energy,’’ Diering said. “With all that extra time, we tried not to burn ourselves out, but the crowd was so energized, the time just flew by and we had so much fun.’’
Fellow cheer team member Brandon Dawa, a junior from Goodyear, credited the seamless adjustment to the changes in schedule to Cheer coaches Emily Stephens and Keegan Hubbard.
“We were really confused but our coaches prepare us for every situation, so we didn’t know it was a power outage until after it was over,’’ Dawa said.
Dawa credited his energy in the bonus pregame to the crowd.
“We just feed off the crowd’s energy. They don’t stop and we don’t stop -- we just keep it going until the event starts,’’ he said.
Part of the crowd’s energy was attributed to the unexpectedly early entrance.
The vast majority of students never waited in line as the line flowed quickly into the building, highlighted by rugby player Casen Dunn, a red, white and blue bathrobe-wearing junior from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo.
“I didn’t want to be in all-purple like everybody else, ‘’ he said. “Being different is what I wanted to do to prove a point that being different is awesome.’’
Just inside the door, Havocs leader Alexa Kowalski, a sophomore from Mesa, proved his point with her willingness to look different: she sat on “Lightning’’ the mobile antelope, behind a massive Snapchat Havocs symbol, designed to encourage students to join the account connecting Havocs leaders to Havocs members.
After students started to fill the upper bowl seating, they were asked, Are you aware this party does not even start for 49 minutes? They roared back and kept singing and dancing and enjoying a series of incredible gymnastic tumbling passes and dancing by the members of the Cheer and Dance teams.
The instant cell phone lighting after the lights went out appeared to be part of the plan until public-address announcer Paul Danuser took the wireless microphone and said, “You guys are in trouble. They will hear about this all over the Western Athletic Conference.’’
Without missing a beat, the official program began at 7:49, which is 1949 in military time, the year GCU originated. At that point, the crowd viewed a video of Havocs and Spirit entity highlights showing synchronized voice and motion moves and exceptional support for GCU athletics teams.
Thunder’s rope drop arrival from the ceiling to the floor sent the crowd into an even greater frenzy, followed by the Thundering Heard’s peppy rendition of the GCU Fight Song, which was led by Havocs co-presidents Jake Bradshaw and Shelby Langston and accompanied by the lyrics on the giant video screen. Next, students learned the soccer samba chants and enjoyed performances by the Cheer team and Dance team accompanied by the Thundering Heard, Thunder and Havocs leaders, including the diaper-wearing, pineapple-eating Titus Converse.
The last routine, with cheerleaders stunting, dancers spinning, the band soaring and Thunder flipping was met with the highest decibels roar from the crowd, many of whom rushed the floor moments later to get a close view of the post Lope-A-Palooza concert by Walker Hayes and his band.
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].