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USA Insider Race to Survive: New Zealand

Race to Survive: New Zealand's Rhode Island Team Just Missed Being Cast in Season 1

Emilio Navarro and Heather Sischo almost had their day in Alaska before making it to New Zealand.

By Tara Bennett

Sometimes opportunity does strike twice. At least that's the case for Race to Survive: New Zealand racers Emilio Navarro and Heather Sischo. The Rhode Island competitors got cast in the second iteration of the brutal competition survival race, which unleashes nine teams of two into the wilds of New Zealand for a $500,000 prize. Surprisingly, Navarro revealed to USA Insider that he was actually up for the inaugural season of the series, Race to Survive: Alaska

How to Watch

Watch new episodes of Race to Survive: New Zealand Mondays at 11/10c on USA Network

RELATED: Where to Watch Race to Survive: New Zealand: Cast & Extreme New Stakes Explained

"The funny thing is it fell on my lap because I cast for Season 1, and I don't even know what it was," Emilio shared. "It was through a friend that knows that I'm into endurance, so he asked me."

Ultimately, Emilio said that opportunity fell through — but then he got another phone call a year later.

Emilio and Heather go from the urban jungle to the New Zealand jungle

Heather Sischo and Emilio Navarro

Emilio said when he got a call from the Race to Survive casting team about applying for Season 2, he didn't even know about the Alaska season. 

"I kind of had an idea that it was a race," he admitted about what he knew about the series. "But I really didn't dive into that hole because I didn't want to do life-altering changes if I wasn't going to get cast."

But when he was asked to formally apply for the new season, he enlisted his long-time friend Heather Sischo to be his teammate. And it was Heather who did her homework by watching all of Race to Survive: Alaska to figure out what they were signing up for.

"I watched it right when he had asked me to apply with him. I went and watched it and he did not," she said, laughing. "He waited until we were already accepted. And then he started to watch it."

RELATED: Watch the Race to Survive: New Zealand Adventurers Tackle the Deadly Chasm

Heather said it was pretty sobering from the get-go. "We don't live in the mountains, so when I watched it, I'm like, 'OK, I need a backpack.' And of course, it also gives you a little bit of nerves because you're like, 'Oh, I'm really just going to be sleeping on the ground.' So, I went to REI every single day for a month. And they were really cool because I was like, 'I think I might have to start a fire with no matches' and the guy there actually helped me. Then Emilio and me were in the woods practicing."

Self-proclaimed trail runners and "gym rats," Emilio said they had a steep learning curve to prep for the rigors of New Zealand.

"The only thing that we knew were competent about was the fitness piece," he shared. "And I'm gonna be very upfront, our weakness was every aspect. We've never read a map or ever held a compass. When I run in the mountains, I use a GPS. Or we have all trails, so it was from scratch for us. It's like taking a final exam and doing a crash course within like a month to learn how to build shelter and get the right equipment. Good thing Heather had some connections and we were able to practice and get some skills to get some training."

How do Emilio and Heather fare in the New Zealand wilderness? Watch new episodes of Race to Survive: New Zealand every Monday night on USA Network.