Fourteen men compete in fourth annual Mr. WHS competition

Winner of Mr. WHS, Darren Garcia, pinches First Runner-up Jack Brooks’ cheeks as Second Runner-up Thom ruiz watches. Photo by BENIT MEYER

Lines outside the theater doors began to form an hour before the show began, filled with eager students and parents hoping to get a seat in what was sure to be a full house for the fourth annual Mr. WHS Competition Jan. 21. By the end of the night, senior Darren Garcia walked away with the crown as the 2011 Mr. WHS, with freshman Jack Brooks as First Runner-up and senior Thom Ruiz as Second Runner-up.

The competition began with introductions from the two alumni hosts, Leigh Leonard and Neil Sunseri, both of whom are not new to performing. The contestants drew laughter from the crowd as they danced to a mix of “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce, “It’s Tricky” by Run D.M.C., and “California Gurls” by Katy Perry. They rushed backstage to get out of their white shirts into their outfits for the talent portion of the competition, encouraged by the crowd’s energy.

“It was a real adrenaline rush seeing the crowd for the first time,” Davonte Brown said.

The night was filled with laughs as the audience witnessed the contestant’s talents, some comical, some serious, and all entertaining. Mark Riley started off the show with stand up comedy followed by Garcia’s dance routine. The girls in the audience went wild as Jack Brooks entered the stage, ready to perform his rendition of Napoleon Dynamite’s dance. Other dance performances included a dance-off by Jarid Schlenz and Cody Cesna, and a dance routine performed by T.J. Papenfuss to “Don’tcha“ by the Pussycat Dolls and “Single Ladies” by Beyonce. Returning contestant Nathan Hodgens danced to “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley while sophomore Nick Schneider danced and lip synced to the K-Pop song “Lucifer” by Shinee. Other highlights included more stand-up comedy by Matt McConnell, and songs performed by Davonte Brown, Thom Ruiz, Bradly Valenzuela and Cory Sybrant, who closed the talent portion of the show.

The contestants, despite their nerves, managed to have fun on stage while performing.

“I couldn’t even see the crowd because the spotlight was so bright, but I could definitely hear them yelling my name, cheering me on, and laughing at my jokes even though they were really lame,” Matt McConnell said.

Contestants said they left the stage feeling positive about their performances.

“I was cooler than Lando Calrissian before he double crossed Han Solo,” Mark Riley said.

During intermission, crazed fans crowded around the jars, eager to deposit change for their favorite contestants and dollar bills for the rest. After scarfing down snacks, the audience returned to the theater for the second portion of the show, which encompassed the style and interview segments.

“I definitely loved how bold (Matt) McConnell was, walking across the stage with his ladies,” Jessie North said.

Green sparkly jumpsuits, pink feather boas and leather jackets were not out of the ordinary during the style portion of the competition. The audience grew more excited as the night continued into the interview portion, chanting contestants’ names, and cheering relentlessly.

The interview portion of the competition was filled with a variety of answers, all gaining applause from the crowd. Brooks revealed that his idea of a romantic date would be to one of his favorite restaurants, Mel’s, while McConnell admitted his love for Legos and later unknowingly alluded to risque behavior.

“I didn’t even realize it. It was totally involuntary. I was astonished that it even came out, but the audience’s reaction was priceless,” McConnell said.

Other contestants gave responses as well, but some wanted to show a serious side. Contestant Kyle Peck shared a personal story about his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, which was both shocking and heartwarming. As the interview portion of the competition came to a close, the audience sat in anticipation, waiting to hear results.

The competition was pretty close overall as other contestants shined in various aspects of the competition. Although Garcia and Brooks were clear crowd favorites, Davonte Brown got a perfect score during the dance, and Peck scored high during the talent portion.