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Jesuit student has a secret getaway

Jesuit sophomore Will Cuddy spent a few weeks competing in a reality TV show, but he's keeping hush on how he did
by: Submitted photo, Will Cuddy found himself standing in crystal-clear waters in Fiji as part of the Discovery Kids Channel’s “Endurance: Fiji” competition. Viewers can find out whether he and his partner win the challenge Saturday night.

It all started last summer when Will Cuddy went to a casting call for extras as part of the Gus Van Sant movie 'Paranoid Park.' There, he was asked if he'd be interested in trying out for the Discovery Kids Channel's 'Endurance: Fiji' show.

Cuddy, a Jesuit High School sophomore, thought he had nothing to lose.

A month later, the 15-year-old was asked to submit a video displaying his athletic talents, personality and other attributes for the show that pits teams against one another in 'Survivor'-type challenges.

'So me and my friend Anthony filmed the video in the Jesuit weight room (lifting weights) and also on the football field and the track and I also played drums at my friend James' house and I also sang,' said Cuddy.

Now, 14 shows later, Cuddy and his on-screen athletic partner, Leslie Powell, have made it to the finals with only one show left, which will air at 5:30 p.m. Saturday on the Discovery Kids Channel (121 on Comcast).

So how does this season end?

Like most television competitions that have yet to air, Cuddy is sworn to secrecy.

What he is saying is that the adventure, which included spending two weeks on a tropical island, was a blast.

Before landing the spot on the 'Endurance' show, Cuddy had to have the support of fans who voted online to make sure he competed.

'There were three final guys and three final girls,' said Cuddy. 'There were 200,000 votes cast overall.'

Cuddy was at a Central Oregon acting camp taught by Jesuit High School drama teacher Jeff Hall when he received the good news.

'Jeff took me into his office at camp and my dad called me and told me, 'You're going to Hollywood!'' recalled Cuddy. 'I was just super pumped up.'

Returning from camp, he had only a short window of time to train - 2 1/2 weeks - before flying to Fiji. So he enlisted the help of his 24-year-old brother, Joey, a runner, to get into shape.

'We just lifted weights and went running and stuff,' said Cuddy. 'He mentally prepared me, too.'

Along the way he also purchased a past season of 'Endurance' to see what he was in for.

In the middle of August, Cuddy flew to Los Angeles to meet up with the other contestants including Powell, a native of Austin, Texas, who soon became his Green Team partner. A short time later he would discover that the 15-year-old volleyball player was a stellar athlete.

'My partner was probably the strongest girl there,' Cuddy observed.

In Fiji, Cuddy ended up living with fellow male competitors in a bamboo hut on a remote island considered so sacred that they had to obtain a Fijian chief's permission to use it. What Cuddy quickly fell in love with was a sky-blue ocean filled with tropical fish and loads of poisonous corral.

'It was awesome,' recalls Cuddy. 'It was beautiful. It was 95 degrees.'

The show wasted no time in pitting the teams against each other with a rope challenge the first day he arrived.

'You had to hang onto the rope until you dropped into the water,' said Cuddy. 'Four people went home the very first day so that was pretty nerve-wracking.'

Challenges that would follow included catapulting rubber balls, a scavenger hunt and throwing fake fish to his partner in a relay conducted in the ocean.

One of the toughest challenges proved to be a race where the teams had to run to a large sandbar, grab a peg and run uphill - all on a 100-degree day.

Despite the temperatures, Cuddy and Powell won that event.

Along the way, the pair became friends and formed alliances with members of the Red and Orange teams. The three teams grew so close they plan on meeting at one of the team members' homes in Michigan for a spring break reunion.

Cuddy's friend Andrew Rosenbloom said he was glad to see his friend compete on television.

'It was pretty cool that he was on 'Endurance' but I didn't want his heart to be broken if he didn't do as well as he wanted to,' said Rosenbloom, a sophomore.

Both Cuddy and Rosenbloom play in Under the Gun, a rock/alternative band that recently played at the Jesuit Coffee House.

In addition to his band, Cuddy is involved in a long list of other activities as well. Not only does he run track and play football for Jesuit, he also has a starring role in this weekend's production of 'Little Women.'

Cuddy admits to having been bit by the acting bug and would like to pursue that career after graduation.

'I think I want to be an actor but not necessarily an onstage actor, I want to be an on-camera actor,' he said.

Cuddy has not only enjoyed the ride to the top of the 'Endurance' roller coaster but has had fun along the way.

In October, while promoting the show on KATU's AM Northwest, he got a chance to meet Johnny Cash's son.

Although he can't talk about the final show's outcome until it's over, Cuddy said he plans to have a party on Saturday night after his 'Little Women' performance.

By Saturday evening, viewers will know if Cuddy and Powell are the grand prize winners that would send them on a two-week vacation to Australia. If he does win, he plans on taking his brother Joey with him.

Meanwhile, Cuddy said he'll long remember his Fiji endeavor.

'It was really fun; the experience of a lifetime,' he said.