Kentucky couple at the gate for 'Race'
By Tom Dorseytdorsey@courier-journal.com
By Tom Dorseytdorsey@courier-journal.com
If good old-fashioned gumption will get them to the finish line first, a Kentucky couple ought to win the 10th edition of CBS' "The Amazing Race," which is off and running with a new season this weekend.
Dave and Mary Conley of Stone (population about 300) in Pike County will be among a dozen couples competing when the racers bolt from the starting gate Sunday from 8:30 to 10 p.m. on CBS.
The race was taped earlier this year, but the contestants can't talk about it until it's over or they get sent home. But that didn't stop Rita Hatfield of Hardy, Ky., from speaking up for the Conleys in a phone interview this week.
"Mary is my sister and my best friend," said Hatfield. The Conleys have three kids, ages 10, 5 and 6. She's 31 and he's 32.
"Dave Jr. works as a boss in a coal mine, and he calls her a homemaker," said Hatfield, "but she is a domestic goddess … a mother, teacher, taxi-cab driver, nurse and doctor."
Hatfield said the Conleys aren't in it for the million-dollar prize but would certainly have plenty of places to use the money. "With three kids, there's no lack of things they could do with it, but they want it for college educations," Hatfield said. The big reason her sister applied was to make a point.
"Mary has always loved 'The Amazing Race,' " said Hatfield. "She wanted to prove she could do something … to show that she's not just a homemaker, that she can get out there and compete."
Her husband would have preferred "Survivor" but was willing and open for any contest.
"They'll make a great team," said Hatfield, "because Mary is very smart and willing to try anything, and Dave Jr. is very competitive … a hard worker, and when he starts something he finishes it."
There's a lot to finish on this latest "Amazing Race," which will cover 40,000 miles with stopovers in 13 countries. There will be challenges to master in places from Madagascar to Mongolia. Competitors will travel to Kuwait, Hanoi and Beijing, where they will search for clues in the Forbidden City and have to climb the Great Wall of China.
Being in shape is a key factor.
"Mary lost from a size 16 to an 8 in about three months to get ready," said Hatfield. "She worked out big time, dieted and did everything." Her husband is an Army veteran and has kept in shape working in the mines.
Mary was born in Williamson, W.Va., and was a newspaper carrier for 10 years before she went away to Bible college to become a teacher. The couple met while working at a McDonald's during a summer break a decade ago and got married.
Hatfield thinks they'll work well together, which is an essential ingredient of winning "The Amazing Race," where team members have been known to blow it by spouting off.
"Mary won't take it from anybody," her sister said. "If they have a little squabble, she tells him right then. She's like our mother. She tells people up front what she thinks."
The other teams are the diverse melting pot that "The Amazing Race" likes to stir up. They include Muslims from Ohio, a Rockette and a beauty queen, two male models, an Indian-American pair who speak multiple languages, two brothers, a pair of former South Carolina cheerleaders and Iron Man competitors, one of whom lost a leg at age 7.
The Conleys don't have anything big planned for opening night, even though the couple are the talk of the town. "We're just planning to get together at her house and watch it with the kids," Hatfield said.
She insists she doesn't know if her sister and brother-in-law won. "I did ask her, and she told me: 'Rita, you know I'm under contract; I can't tell you.' "
Can she tell anything from the way they're acting?
"I kind of have an idea, but I don't know for sure," said Hatfield. Unofficial updates have popped up all over the Internet.
"I've seen things about how far they've gone from pictures, but I really don't have any idea," said Hatfield. "I have a feeling they did win, though, because they are very, very tough competitors." http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060915/COLUMNISTS15/609150318