Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Race champs Tom Puzak and Eric Kelly

MOST Amazing Race winners owe victory to a sunfish

Added on Monday, July 28, 2014

It seems the winners of this year’s MOST Amazing Race, presented by CenterPoint Energy, owe their victory to a hungry Lake Nokomis sunfish.

IMG_4289bWhen Tom Puzak (pictured above, left) and Eric Kelly (above, right) of team “Sophisticuffs” arrived at the south Minneapolis lake for two challenges – paddle-boarding and fishing – the race was half over and still up for grabs. Puzak began paddle-boarding, while Kelly ran to a dock where racers had to catch a fish or wait 15 minutes – whichever came first (pictured, right).

Kelly caught one immediately. “That brought us from a tie for third- through sixth-place to a small lead,” Puzak said.

IMG_5812They never looked back. Although second-place team Rally Skittles! (pictured, right) caught up with them at an art challenge at the Salvation Army Store on Nicollet Ave., Puzak and Kelly finished the task several minutes faster. They ran to the next and final challenge location – Sweet Dreams Candy Shop, where teams ate dried crickets, Toxic Waste sour candies, and a half-pound of gummy candy.

“Running 3.2 miles from the store to Sweet Dreams cemented our lead, as other teams waited for the bus,” Puzak said.

Puzak has won the past three MOST Amazing Races in the Twin Cities – two with Kelly, the other with a former girlfriend. Puzak and Kelly have also won three other Salvation Army MOST Amazing Races in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; and Arlington, Texas.

After all those races, Saturday’s event qualifies as their favorite. (View race photos.)

“It was the most well-attended and most competitive race thus far – the top five to seven teams all had a very legitimate shot (at winning),” said Puzak, who will split CenterPoint Energy’s $5,000 grand prize with Kelly.

Other winners included:

  • Second place: Justin Bakken and Alan Eastlund (team Rally Skittles!) won two queen-size beds courtesy of Mattress Firm ($4,000 value).
  • Third: Patrick Marzolf and Derek Thurmes (Scotch Brothers) won a 40-gallon water heater courtesy of CenterPoint Energy ($915 value).
  • Fourth: Kimberly Anderson and John Aune (Frontier ‘97) won a year’s supply of bagels from Bruegger’s Bagels ($340 value).
  • Fifth: Maria Bowker and Kaelene Lundstrum (Amazon Ruggers) won two $25 American Express gift cards courtesy of KFAN 100.3 FM.

Of the 94 teams that participated in the qualifier and main event, six were from states outside Minnesota: Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. The remaining teams came from 70 different Minnesota cities.

Race details

IMG_3545The 2014 MOST Amazing Race main event featured 30 teams of two that raced around Minneapolis and St. Paul to complete 11 mental and physical challenges.

Challenges included:

  • Dressing up as CenterPoint Energy mascot Buddy Blue Flame and decorating the company’s other mascot, Wanda Water Heater (pictured, right).
  • Finding answers to a quiz inside Minnesota History Center and playing a Russian roulette-like game in which losers got a pie in the face (watch video).
  • Racing around in hamster balls at University of Minnesota (watch video).
  • Bruegger’s Bagels: Picking up and delivering bagels; eating and identifying flavors of cream cheese.
  • Catching fish and paddle-boarding at Lake Nokomis.
  • Building robot arms and blowing balloons through hoops at Leonardo’s Basement. Racers had to wear the robot arms in public while en route to the next challenge (watch video).
  • Bouncing tennis balls at targets and running an obstacle course at Inner City Tennis (watch video).
  • Making Salvation Army-themed art at a Salvation Army Store.
  • Eating dried crickets, Toxic Waste sour candies and a half-pound of gummy bears at Sweet Dreams Candy (watch video).
  • A Minneapolis Aquatennial matching game, followed by building a torch and running it across the finish line.


IMG_2638This year’s qualifying event was held at two University of Minnesota sports facilities – Siebert baseball field and Bierman track field. A total of 84 teams competed for 20 spots in the official afternoon event, where they were joined by the 10 top fundraising teams.

IMG_2390Several local celebrities hosted challenges and cheered teams on, including KDWB 101.3 FM host Falen, KFAN 100.3 FM hosts Chris Hawkey (pictured, right) and Paul “Meatsauce” Lambert, and Minneapolis Aquatennial royalty.

“I love this event and I love The Salvation Army – their mission is so wonderful and so perfect,” Hawkey said.

Qualifier challenges included:

  • Kicking a soccer ball at a target
  • Eating cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Picking up “rescued food” from Bruegger’s Bagels and delivering it to The Salvation Army
  • Solving a puzzle aboard a Metro Transit bus
  • Answering a quiz using a cell phone
  • Counting bricks, bells and balls, and using the answers to unlock a padlock


Fantastic fundraising

IMG_5647The race raised more than $105,000 for Salvation Army food and shelter programs. Racers raised more than $70,000, plus $20,000 from CenterPoint Energy, $3,000 from Polaris, $1,500 from FairLife, and $10,000 from an anonymous donor.

The top fundraising team, Adventure Guys (pictured, right), raised $4,830, winning two queen-size beds and accessories, courtesy of Mattress Firm. Team Frontier ‘97 was close behind with $4,255. More than 20 teams raised at least $1,000.

In nine years, the MOST Amazing Race has raised nearly $550,000 for Salvation Army food and shelter programs.

IMG_2039“We thank all of our sponsors and volunteers for making this year’s race even more amazing,” said Lt. Col. Robert Thomson, Salvation Army Northern Division commander (pictured, right). “Their efforts have allowed us to provide food and shelter to even more Twin Cities residents in need.”

The 2014 MOST Amazing Race was sponsored by: