October 14 marks the premiere of season 32 of The Amazing Race, and Cody Buell ’09 and his friend and competition partner Nathan Worthington will take off on a quest to outrun, out think and out strategize 10 other two-person teams on a race around the world.
The Amazing Race is a reality series on CBS hosted by Phil Keoghan. At every destination on their trip, each team must compete in a series of challenges, some mental and some physical, and only when the tasks are completed will they learn of their next location. Over the 10-week season, teams who are the farthest behind will gradually be eliminated as the contest progresses, with the first team to arrive at the final destination winning a $1 million prize.
Cody is an environmental and sustainability manager for La-Z-Boy manufacturing in Dayton, Tennessee, originally from Paint Lick, Kentucky. He met Worthington at work, but they became friends through a mutual love of “noodling,” a sport involving finding a Catfish hiding underwater, sticking your arm in its mouth, and dragging it out of the water with your bare hands. Ready to try what was then a new adventure, Buell mentioned to Worthington his interest in noodling.
“He said, ‘If you get ahold of a boat, I’ll take you out,'” Buell says. Ultimately, that offer led to the now-experienced pair being featured on outlets such as Tennessee Valley Adventures, developing a social media following, and bringing them to the attention of producers of The Amazing Race.
Thrill-seeking Buell was excited by the prospect. Bull riding, horse wrangling, hang gliding, diving with bull sharks and catching endangered bats are just a few examples of activities he has dabbled in. His race partner Worthington, however, took a little more convincing.
“He and his wife started dating in high school,” Buell explains. “He’s 37 now, and I don’t think they’ve been away from each other for more than a few days in all that time. If you go on the Race, there’s no contact with anybody—no cell phone, no nothing—for five weeks. His wife finally convinced him that this was a chance of a lifetime, and he had to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Buell can’t share any details of the actual race, but he’s thrilled to share how much he enjoyed meeting and getting to know their castmates, and spending time with them even still.
“I can’t say enough about the cast of the show,” he enthuses. “After filming was over almost 600 days ago, we just decided, ‘hey we really like each other!’ Everybody on the cast, from NFL athletes, Olympic athletes, luxury car salesman and former NBA stars, they were all just so caring and kind. We still text every day, and have meet-ups and reunions. We have become family.”
Buell shares his recollection of the overall experience and gives fans a peek behind the curtain.
“It’s physically grueling and nothing viewers see is ever phony. It all plays out like it is: it’s not set up and it’s absolutely like nothing else you can experience or explain to people.
“And it’s amazing how much work goes into getting everything ready for us to travel all around the world,” he continues. “The camera and sound crews are running alongside the teams with all their equipment, as well as their own clothes. Their dedication is remarkable. Really, it’s just an amazing adventure and a once-in-10,000-lifetimes opportunity.”
Throughout this incredible adventure, Buell says he remains humble.
“I count myself very blessed. God has been really good to me, and I just I want to make sure that everything that I do brings more joy to the world than sorrow. I want to encourage everybody to go out there and help their fellow man and know that they are awesome.”
Buell maintains friendships with his Centre Sigma Chi brothers, and remembers H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Art Judith Pointer Jia with particular fondness.
“Dr. Jia was absolutely fantastic; very upbeat and a pleasure to work with. I was a government major, but I have very fond memories making pottery in her class.”
The show airs at 9/8c. Follow Buell on social media or at www.catfistinkings.com.
by Cindy Long
October 14, 2020