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After Scott Flanary earned a spot as a competitor on the 29th season of the CBS adventure show “The Amazing Race,” his friends and family members wanted to know if there was anything he wouldn’t do in pursuit of the $1 million grand prize.
“Bungee jumping,” he told them. “I am very afraid of heights. I was thinking to myself that it is literally the one thing I would never do on the `The Amazing Race.’”
So, naturally, on the ninth episode, the 2005 Auburn University business alum found himself taking halting steps along a narrow bridge high above the Corinth Canal in Corinthos, Greece, and being fitted for a helmet and safety harness. “Are you kidding me?” he said as the CBS cameras rolled. “The one thing I did not want to do!”
He looked down – way, way down – into the narrow strip of aquamarine water more than 250 feet below the platform. Bordered on both sides by cliff walls that were seemingly close enough to touch, the canal appeared to be the approximate size of a bathtub from his vantage point. The bridge over the canal joins the mainland of Greece with Peloponnese, but Flanary wasn’t appreciating the site’s beauty or its 4,000-year history. “This is too much, this is too much, this is too much,” Flanary chattered. “I can’t do it, I can’t do it.”Rather than risk being eliminated from the race, Flanary closed his eyes and let gravity and the bungee do the rest. Over the course of 23 days and a 36,000-mile journey across five continents, nine countries, and 17 cities, Flanary and his partner, Brooke Camhi, fought through fatigue and a variety of physical and mental challenges. At the end, after flying from South Korea to Chicago and negotiating even more obstacles – including stops at Chicagoland Speedway, Wrigley Field, and an encounter with the city’s beekeeper – the duo reached the finish line ahead of the other 10 teams and learned they would split the $1 million prize.
Flanary, who earned a business administration degree from the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, hasn’t quit his day job as a West Coast-based recruiter for accounting firm Moss Adams. State and federal taxes claim a significant chunk of the prize money and, as Flanary notes, “our 15 minutes of fame are going to go fast.”
Oddly enough, Flanary’s educational experience at Auburn may have played a role in his success on the reality show. Beyond his coursework in business management, which provided insight into strategic decision making and interpersonal dynamics, he served as a member of the Student Government Association President’s Cabinet and as president of a variety of student groups, and worked Camp War Eagle. Those came in handy since the 29th season of “The Amazing Race” cast 22 complete strangers.
“You have to be very flexible in terms of how you build relationships with different people,” said Flanary, who earned a master’s degree at Harvard and worked in higher education orientation and admission roles at Johnson & Wales University and the University of Southern California. “I went into the show knowing fully well I was capable of winning with whoever they gave me. When they gave us a chance to choose [partners], I thought about who might be the best three or four people who would best work with me based on first impressions. I didn’t need the added stress of someone I couldn’t get along with.”
Previous seasons of the show have featured competitors with shared histories – teams of husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, fathers and sons, and long-time best friends. Flanary said the lack of previous personal history with a partner likely enhanced communication throughout the show. “You can be blunt,” he said. “I didn’t have the implication of being in her world after the show. We didn’t have to speak again, although Brooke and I still do. The stress levels are so much higher than you expect.”
So, too, is the fatigue. Viewers of “The Amazing Race” may appreciate the sights of Barbados and the Galapagos Islands more so than the competitors as they chase prize money and complete grueling physical and mental challenges around the globe.
“Some of the countries – like South Korea, for example – we were in and out in 24 hours,” Flanary said. “You don’t really get to experience the culture and environment. I probably could’ve stopped and smelled the roses a little bit more, but I was focused on winning the race and the next conversation I needed to have with my partner.”
Flanary’s globe-trotting in the foreseeable future may be connected to his interest in buildOn, an international non-profit that builds schools in developing countries. However, there’s always the chance that CBS viewers will see Flanary resurface again on a remote island in the Pacific or in a house full of strangers.
“I had always wanted to compete on the CBS trifecta – `Survivor,’ `The Amazing Race,’ and `Big Brother,’” he said. “When I got home from `The Amazing Race,’ the very first thing I did after taking a shower was collapse on my couch and watch `Big Brother.’”