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An ‘Amazing’ victory for UW couple

May 7, 2012 By Käri Knutson

It seemed too obvious.

Throughout season 20 of CBS reality show “The Amazing Race,” Maj. Dave Brown Jr. and his wife Rachel dominated the competition. On Sunday night, once again, they were the frontrunners, reaching the finish line with smiles on their faces, expecting to collect $1 million.

Photo: Rachel and Dave Brown

Rachel and Dave Brown Jr. embrace moments after their $1 million victory on “The Amazing Race.”

But show host Phil Keoghan told them no dice. The couple had missed an obstacle and had to go back.

The smiles turned to looks of disbelief.

“There was no fabrication whatsoever,” Dave says. “The drama that ensued – that’s the way it played out.”

“After the shock wore off, we had to figure out what the heck we missed,” Rachel says.

They regrouped, went back, completed the challenge and headed to the finish line – this time earning the $1 million. Dave, an assistant professor of military science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Rachel, who works at Epic Systems in Verona and is a UW human ecology graduate, won the competition back in December. The show started airing in February. It was only after Sunday’s finale aired that the couple could celebrate with friends and family.

“I think our friends think we’re the best secret keepers ever,” Rachel says.

They traveled to five continents, nine countries, 22 cities and covered more than 36,000 miles. There were tense moments, all of which played out on television before millions of viewers.

“I thought it was so embarrassing,” Rachel says. “I didn’t realize we fought that much. I think they showed every single one of our spats.”

They admit – they’re an intense couple, a quality that served them well throughout the competition.

Photo: Rachel and Dave Brown

The couple is shown during one of their challenges in Japan.

Photo: CBS

“Rachel and I appreciate a challenge,” Dave says. “I appreciate that she occasionally pushes my buttons to strive for more.”

But there were also tender moments.

“I’m proud of you no matter what,” they both said to each other moments before crossing the finish line.

Dave is with the Wisconsin Army National Guard and had been deployed in Iraq for a year before returning in June and taping the show. He’s currently assigned to the ROTC detachment at UW–Madison.

Both have been huge fans of the show, plotting from home how they’d be victorious. Dave had been deployed to Iraq but had a two-week rest and relaxation leave where he and Rachel met up in Australia. That’s when she pitched the idea of being on the show. It was an adventurous way to spend time together.

“In some respects, one of the aspects that brought Rachel and I closer together was keeping this secret,” Dave says. “Only the contestants and crew knew.”

Their win on the reality show still seems surreal. Monday was spent doing dozens of interviews. On Tuesday, it’s back to work with Rachel boarding a flight to Seattle for work.

Their answer for how they’ll spend the money may disappoint those wishing for something frivolous and fun.

“The word frivolous doesn’t apply to Rachel and I,” Dave says. “We’re going to pay off the mortgage and use this as a baseline for financial stability.”

But Rachel may splurge on a well-deserved spa day.

Besides the money, they accumulated numerous other prizes along the way for their record-breaking eight challenge victories during the season.

“I think Dave is more proud of the record than winning,” Rachel says.

“That just goes to show how competitive I truly am,” Dave says.

Tags: ROTC