Willamette community unites to reclaim a world record in Red Light/Green Light

by Erin Dahl ,

  • Game players
  • Blitz greets players
  • The game begins
When Tyler Janitz ’19 heard Willamette was going for the world record in Red Light/Green Light, he knew he had to play.

When he saw the four-foot tall trophy, he knew he had to win.

As Janitz took his place at the starting line, he reminded himself to run fast and stop hard, to stay focused and to ignore his competitors. If he stuck to his plan, he thought he would reach the finish line first.

He was right.

“I can’t believe I actually won. It’s crazy," says Janitz, who hopes the trophy will fit on the top shelf in his dorm room in Kaneko Commons. “This was so much fun. I’ve only been at Willamette for a week, and already I’m seeing tons of familiar faces. It’s really a close-knit family here.”

Janitz was one of 1,203 people who ran in Willamette’s game of Red Light/Green Light on Aug. 28, unofficially setting a new world record. The event drew a mix of students, staff, alumni and their families, who united on the Quad before the race to snap photos, play Frisbee and admire Blitz’ dance moves.

President Steve Thorsett called the game, and David Douglass, dean of Campus Life, served as the master of ceremonies. The judges were Chuck Bennett, a Salem city councilman; Brian Shipley, chief of staff for Gov. Kate Brown; and Jerry Moore, Salem’s chief of police.

The game began when Thorsett called “green light,” causing racers to storm his way. When he called “red light,” they froze in place. Anyone who kept moving had to return to the starting line.

The event lasted about a minute. In addition to winning the coveted trophy, Janitz will get to write his name in the cupola in Waller Hall. He and a guest will also enjoy a catered lunch with Thorsett in his office.

For organizer Becca Brownlee ’16, the game was a chance to see the “melting pot” that is Willamette.

“This is a really great example of how strong a community we have,” Brownlee says. “We wanted everyone to come together to do something unique, and they did.”

Willamette first set a world record in Red Light/Green Light two years ago, but lost its title last winter to an event in Phoenix, Arizona. This time around, Willamette beat the existing record by 67 people — evidenced by photographs, drone footage and a sign-in sheet with each player’s name.

The Guinness Book of World Records is expected to certify the results this winter.

Bryan Schmidt, director of Campus Recreation, is glad Willamette reclaimed its record. But for him, the best part of the event was seeing participants celebrate being Bearcats.

“Today, I saw the heart and spirit at Willamette come together,” he says. “That's what matters.”