CHS senior loves new experiences

by Sonja J. Keith

For those who know Will LaRue, it probably came as no surprise that he celebrated his 18th birthday by skydiving.

The Conway High School senior is all about adventure and already has an impressive list of things that he has accomplished – from wrestling and scuba diving to race car driver and private pilot.

He and his family were enjoying spring break in the Virgin Islands when an opportunity to skydive, on his birthday, presented itself.

On Sept. 14, 2016, Will earned his private pilot’s license at the youngest age possible. Certification included classroom time, a medical exam and 40 hours of flight time in different circumstances before a 60-question written exam. “The hardest part is the oral exam with an FAA-certified instructor,” Will said. “Then you have to go up with him and show him your flying skills.”

Will’s interest in flying was sparked by his dad, Wayne LaRue, who owns and flies his own plane. In fact, his dad has owned the plane since the year Will was born. “I have been in a plane forever,” Will said. “I always thought one day I could be a pilot, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. Whenever I turned 16, my dad said, ‘Do you want to start working toward this’ and I said ‘Yeah, why not?’”

Getting his pilot’s license wasn’t the first time he had an accomplishment at the youngest age possible. At age 12, he earned his scuba diving certification. His interest was sparked by his dad and mother, Julie LaRue, who both enjoy scuba diving. As Will began studying, he learned about all the health problems and ailments that can occur under worst case scenarios while diving. “It scared the mess out of little 11-year-old Will,” he said with a laugh. “It’s really not that dangerous.”

Will said he enjoys the thrill of scuba diving, getting to see places that most people don’t get to experience. He has been diving in Arkansas, Florida, the Cayman Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and Mexico. While diving, he has been six inches from a moray eel, petted a nurse shark, shot at lionfish and been followed by two bull sharks and barracuda. He’s also fed stingrays.

“I really love water because I’ve always been around it,” Will said. “It is kind of a thrill because it is something that is potentially dangerous and I like that, as you can tell with the skydiving.”

In addition to scuba diving, Will has tried his hand at other water-related activities, including flyboarding. On one occasion, he was able to soar about 45 feet above the water. He and his family enjoy spending time during the summer at Greers Ferry Lake.

Will loves outdoor activities, which he has enjoyed around the nation, from fishing in Michigan to hunting in Kansas. He also enjoys camping and rock climbing as well as white water rafting. He said the family plane makes it possible to enjoy a weekend rafting trip in Georgia, North Carolina or Tennessee. He added that day trips are also fun.

Another activity that Will has enjoyed is car racing, which he tried for the first time when he was 15. A family friend invited him to try his hand with a Legends Car during practice rounds in Oklahoma, where he was given an opportunity to do a feature race. The small cars, which resemble American automobiles from the 1930s and 1940s, can reach speeds of 160 miles per hour. On subsequent outings, Will won bronze and gold medals.

“I actually had my racing license before I had my driver’s license.”

Will has been on the Conway High wrestling team for two years and was named team captain for his senior year by his teammates. He competed in two different weight classes.

Will, who has an interest in business, competed and won the district and state banking and financial procedures contest hosted by the Future Business Leaders of America. He is part of a two-person team that will be headed to Anaheim, Calif., for the national competition. The team is given a case study and a role to assume, like a banker or financial advisor. They have 20 minutes to prepare before making a seven-minute presentation to judges.

Last year, Will was one of five members on a parliamentary procedure team that made it to the state contest but lost in the finals.

An honor graduate at Conway High, Will plans to attend the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. At CHS, he took AP and concurrent classes, meaning he will start at UofA with about a semester’s worth of college credit.

Will would like to own his business after college, and perhaps take over the family business (TFC Inc. in North Little Rock). Will said he gets his strong work ethic from his parents. His interest in business comes from watching his dad.

Describing himself as self-reliant, Will likes the idea of one day being his own boss. “I just love the idea of however much work I put in to it is what I will get out of it. I hate the idea of having a salary, or something like that. If I work 80 hours in a week, I want to get paid for that 80 hours. I want my work to reflect my pay and what I get out of it,” he said. “I’m excited to build up my own career.”

As far as other activities he might pursue, Will is interested in wingsuit flying and free diving with no scuba gear. “I also want to get more into rock climbing,” he said. “I really do love the business world.”

Will said while there has been some risk involved in some of his extreme activities, he has only suffered a few minor cuts and bruises, although he did have ankle and shoulder injuries as a result of wrestling. “I’m not going to do anything I don’t think I can do.”

This summer, Will plans to continue working in the lawn care business that he started when he was 14 while taking advantage of any opportunities for adventure that may come along. Agreeable to the description “thrill seeker,” Will said he likes trying something different and maybe a little bit dangerous. He also enjoys sharing his activities with others.

“I love to experience anything new and really just like to share new experiences with other people, too,” he said. “I love it all…I try to take it all in while I can.”