The Challenge History: Top 10 Solo Performances in Team Challenge Wins
Each week The Challenge USA has new partnerships, and while some weeks we see remarkable displays of teamwork, we’ve also seen individual players take it upon themselves to carry their team to victory. Kyland answered every single trivia question for him and Alyssa during their win in Episode 4, and this past week, we saw Tyson do it all for himself and Cashay. These recent showings forced me to brainstorm and times a player dominated a daily challenge to carry their pair/team to victory.
I’ll be upfront in saying there are no honorable mentions for this article because there will likely be a Part 2. I tried to go through as many dailies as possible and create a list with 10 different moments where I’m able to split it semi-evenly between men & women (this one was a 6–4 split). The toughest part about this list was figuring out and weighing how much of an impact another player had. For example, there are multiple challenges on Cutthroat where Abram vocally carried his team, yet everyone was part of the win, and thus it’s difficult to quantify his value.
If there is a moment missing that you think should be on the list, comment it, and I’ll try to break it down in detail when I do Part 2.
Let’s jump into the Top 10.
10 Amanda Garcia Outsmarts Everyone on Final Reckoning
Let’s kick off with someone you maybe wouldn’t expect on the list. On Final Reckoning, players had a challenge where they got trapped in a cage with graffiti on a wall behind them where they’d wait for their teammates to unlock so they could solve a code to win a daily. Not only did Amanda make sure to be aware of her surroundings, she memorized the board behind her quickly, leading to a big win. It looked especially impressive as Johnny Bananas, the man who usually has the cheat code to every challenge, was left stumped.
It doesn’t rank higher because Zach did his job unlocking his partner better than half the cast, so it wasn’t complete solo dominance. Amanda was on-point during Final Reckoning both in terms of fitness and finding a groove mentally in challenges. Sadly, we all know what happened after their daily challenge win.
9 Noor Jehangir Zooms Through His Competition on Fresh Meat 2
How about we stay off the beaten path? Fresh Meat 2 was a season with so many elite performances: from Laurel & Kenny’s daily challenge dominance to Landon’s superhero effort in the Final and elimination against Evelyn, to Jill & Pete being the first players to eliminate Darrell. What gets lost among all the excellence is that one-and-done Fresh Meat cast member Noor Jehangir was a phenomenal athlete. The guy ran a 4.8 40-yard dash time during the Fresh Meat combine and went to play for the US National Team in Australian Rules Football. As a pair, Jenn & Noor weren’t bad at all; they just weren’t better than the top teams.
However, in the season’s second to last daily challenge, they had a mission where the women would get hung in the air by their ankles as their male teammates would physically spin them as they sprinted back and forth, gathering stones to create an Inukshuk puzzle. It all came down to the men, and Noor blew the competition out of the water with his mix of agility, balance, and power (pushing Jenn to where she wouldn’t knock over the puzzle). He beat a stacked trio of Kenny, Landon, and Pete to earn the daily challenge win for himself and Jenn.
Noor is someone I would love to see get brought back into the fold for Challenge All-Stars 4. They need to bring in names who can potentially shake up the establishment competition-wise.
8 Cousin Mitch Reid Steals The Mini Final on Bloodlines
The first daily challenge on Bloodlines after the game re-devolved into pairs was a mini Final with the five remaining teams. Cory & Mitch were in dead last for the entirety of the challenge due to Cory’s pre-existing ACL injury; luckily for them, a tangram puzzle had been stumping the other four teams for roughly 10–20 minutes. Mitch pulls up and immediately solves it to give him and Cory the win. It was a clutch performance that allowed him & Cory to force a Cara vs. Bananas elimination.
Mitch’s puzzle prowess almost stole Cara Maria’s first Challenge Championship — he is someone I’ve always wanted to see back on a Challenge, only to watch him do more puzzles.
7 Roni Martin Stands Tall on the Gauntlet 1
How about some OG love for 2x Champ Roni Martin? On the Gauntlet 1, players competed in Rolling on a River. A daily challenge where players from both teams walked on a moving log as long as possible until one person was left standing. With all the big characters, former dance student Roni stayed calm cool and balanced the entire time, taking down the Miz and outlasting everyone to win her team the daily challenge.
6 Theresa Gonzalez putting on a clinic during Exes 2
During Fresh Meat 2, Theresa mentioned having a photographic memory before a daily challenge, and after she and Ryan failed the mission, I assumed she was lying.
Fast-forward to Exes 2, and the players compete in a daunting mini Final where the women have to memorize an ornate pattern of colors and then recreate at the top of a mountain they would run up and down. Theresa (and Wes) ran for essentially the entire duration of the challenge, proving to be the most fit girl cardio-wise, and when it came the memory portion, she crushed it without any help from Wes. Reportedly, they won this mini Final by more than half an hour. Maybe she does have a photographic memory after all. Theresa and Wes at their apex on Exes 2 is one of the best pairings I’ve ever seen compete on the show and it saddens me that they didn’t get to run the Final together.
5 Old Man CT runs through his competition on Spies, Lies & Allies
The final daily challenge of Spies, Lies & Allies had players running back and forth across a beam during a heights-over-water challenge as they carried weighted bags. As they tried to make it across, opponents from the other teams would throw “bombs” at them in an effort to knock them down. With Kyle & Emy struggling, CT took it upon himself to solo the mission for his team. CT’s dynamic of size and balance was beautiful to watch. Not only could he race back and forth with zero fear, but even if CT got hit by a bomb, he had the reflexes to catch it and maybe even throw it back.
CT has dominated so many challenges over the years, and this most recent one was an example of how no matter how athletic or fit certain people are, they aren’t CT.
4 Leroy Garrett Climbs His Way To The Final on Rivals 1
Leroy & Mike were able to coast for most of Rivals 1, at first due to Wes & Kenny fearing Mike in a puzzle and then getting to skirt by with Evan’s D-Day plan to take out CT & Adam. Going into the final daily challenge, Leroy knew they had to win, or they were getting tossed into the last elimination of the season. The comp was straightforward: one player climbs a rope attached to a helicopter as fast as possible to pull a ripcord and release their teammate hanging in the air. Leroy put on an exhibition, climbing a rope faster than humanly possible. He left Wes, Bananas, and CT in the dust to win the daily challenge and send himself and Mike to the Final.
The win established Leroy as a physical force on The Challenge and ensured the infamous elimination between Bananas & Tyler and CT & Adam.
3 Ruthie Alcaide Hangs In On Battle of the Sexes 1
Most fans who watched Ruthie on the Duel 2 or Challenge All-Stars 1 probably thought: “Oh wow, she’s scrappy and pretty good for her size.” You talk to an OG fan who watched her on Battle of the Sexes 1, and they will talk about someone who is one of the best female competitors the show has ever seen. On Battle of the Sexes 1, Ruthie stood out for her fearlessness during competition and the pride she took in being a team player where she wanted to win for the team and prove women were just as good as men.
Ruthie immediately shined during the second daily challenge of the season, Dead Man’s Drop. In this challenge, players had to hang upside down using a trapeze bar, the player who hung in the longest wins for the entire team. With 34 players on the field, not only did Ruthie beat everyone, she was checking her stopwatch and continuing to flex while basking in the cheers of her teammates. Ruthie performed similarly in the season’s final daily challenge to win her and her teammates’ cars. It is a real “you have to watch to understand” season because anyone watching Ruthie in any other season wouldn’t grasp the player she was. As The Challenge has evolved, it’s moved away from many of Ruthie’s strengths, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t still a badass and wasn’t at one point one of the best to compete.
2 Tony Raines Eats His Way Into Our Hearts on Vendettas
“Food Wars” was the fourth daily challenge on Vendettas and the turning point of Tony Raines’ Challenge career. Until this moment, Tony had always been a player where when the going got tough, he either folded or put himself in such a mess that he wouldn’t even show up to compete. During this hybrid Trivia/Eating challenge, he said it was Tony Time and went to work. The first round was six players attempting to down a block of rotten cheese, and Tony was the only player out of the six to even achieve the feat, knocking out five teams at once. In the second round, Tony beat Leroy (one of The Challenge’s best eaters) in a marshmallow-eating sprint. During the Final round, Tony had to go against Cara Maria (another strong eater), where they each had to eat a bowl of mayonnaise.
Tony looked like he detached his entire soul from his body in the final round when consuming the Mayo. The guy put it all out on the field to win the challenge for his team, and he probably had a terrible couple of hours on the toilet that night. It was worth it because it put Tony on a trajectory where he was set up to make it into multiple Troikas from then on and changed the way people looked at him as a player.
1 Tyson Apostol Does It All on The Challenge USA
Is this a gross overreaction? Most likely.
Then again, as I think about it more, everything about Tyson’s most recent daily challenge performance becomes more impressive once I put it in perspective of other performances.
For starters, he competed in a swimming challenge with a partner who did not know how to swim, so he carried her by the life vest as he swam. His partner also committed a penalty where they had to swim more than any team. Despite this, Tyson was still able to finish the swimming portion of this comp 4th out of 10 teams even with the penalty, and once more repeated: with a partner who could not swim.
Tyson then approaches the tangram, which has been stumping three other teams for a few minutes, and crushes it to win the daily challenge. When you look at everyone else on this list, Tyson’s performance was an amalgamation of other great Challenge performances. It was a display of both physical and mental dominance, heart, teamwork, and an undying passion for proving you are the best. Maybe I’m overrating the win; perhaps this will look even more correct in a few years.