In 18 seasons, a mother and son team has never won on the CBS reality show, “The Amazing Race.” Not so for the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s version of the race around the world.
Nicklaus Franck, a U.S. Army captain assigned to the 52nd Aviation Regiment at Stuttgart Army Air Field, and his mother Monika Pirrone, from Fort Monroe, Va., won the garrison’s second annual Amazing Race Sept. 17 with a time of 1:18:14.
Unlike the TV show, their efforts did not earn them a million dollars. Instead, they won a three-day vacation with all the perks to Camp Darby, Italy, and two $75 AAFES gift certificates.
But it was never about collecting a prize. “It started off as something fun to do with my mom,” said Franck, who is a big fan of the show.
Winning the event was fantastic, he said, because his mother was pretty nervous about competing. “I’m really competitive. She thought I was going to yell at her,” Franck said, jokingly. Turns out though, Pirrone was able to hold her own. “My mom was very motivated. It was nice to see her push herself,” Franck said.
The duo competed against 11 other two-person teams in events designed to test strength, endurance, dexterity, problem-solving skills and teamwork.
According to Pirrone and Franck, sewing 16 triangles of fabric together to make a square quilt block at the Patch Arts and Crafts Center was one of the most difficult challenges.
“Sew … I don’t know how to do that!” Pirrone said. She learned quickly, however, stitching together the pieces as quickly as Franck was able to arrange them.
Instead of taxis or rental cars — typical transportation modes on the reality show— each team was required to ride bicycles between the events.
The first leg of the race was held at the Patch Fitness Center, where teams were given a choice of running suicide drills while dribbling a basketball or tossing volleyballs into a laundry basket from a distance of about 50 feet.
From there, competitors moved on to the sewing task at the Arts and Crafts Center, then sorted books using the Dewey Decimal system at the Patch Library. They then biked approximately six miles from Patch Barracks to Panzer Kaserne along the old tank trail. At Panzer, teams participated in a Zumba dance and aerobics marathon for a specified time before proceeding to the Auto Skills Center where they matched keys to unlock a car door.
Most of the participants agreed that the hardest event was created by Mike Mendoza, the Outdoor Recreation director. Teams had to follow written directions to inflate a rubberized canoe with five inflation points using a hand pump. They then had to don life vests and carry the canoe and two paddles along a 150-yard circuit at the Panzer parade field. The canoe and the paddles could not touch the ground, and the paddles could not be placed inside the canoe. Once back at the starting line, teams were not finished with the task until they had deflated their canoes.
“The bike ride was the longest event, but the toughest was having to inflate, carry and deflate that boat,” said Ayrril Boggess, who with husband Brian, took second place with a time of 1:20:40. The couple, also big fans of the TV series, won two $50 AAFES gift certificates.
The last three events included bowling either two strikes or four spares at the Galaxy Bowling Center, striping a bed of linen and remaking it to maid’s standards at the Panzer Hotel and running a three-legged race with a shopping cart at the Panzer Exchange.
While the reality show exposes many Americans to a world they don’t usually see in prime time TV, the garrison’s version attempts to accomplish something similar, only on a much smaller scale.
“The Amazing Race is designed to make people aware of our MWR facilities, and the programs and equipment they offer,” said Oliver Stith, the event organizer.
He thinks it does just that. “During last year’s race, I found out a lot of people didn’t even know we had an auto crafts center. The contestants were supposed to go there, but instead went to the AAFES Car Care Center,” he said.
But besides acquainting contestants with MWR facilities, the race was also designed for fun, something Stith did not discount.“It was good to see people having a good time,” he said.
2011 Amazing Race winners
1st — 1:18:14 Nicklaus Franck and Monika Pirrone
2nd — 1:20:40 Brian and Ayrril Boggess
3rd — 1:24:01 Michael and Elizabeth Casciaro
4th — 1:27:45 Andrea Rumpler and Laura Bennett
More photos of the 2011 Amazing Race are available at www.flickr.com/photos/usagstuttgart.