After finishing first six times in 11 legs, The Amazing Race 15 was Meghan Rickey and Cheyne Whitney’s to lose — and the San Diego-based couple did not disappoint. Rickey, a publicist, and Whitney, an after-school band manager, both 23, talked with PEOPLE about how the competition affected their relationship, how they intend to spend their $1 million prize and if wedding bells will be ringing soon. – Carrie Bell
You were a strong team from the start. What do you attribute your consistent winning streak too?Cheyne: It comes down to the fact that we have known each other for so long and we work very well together. Our strengths balance out each other’s weaknesses. We stayed focused on ourselves and didn’t think about what other teams were doing or how. It has been our dream for five years to go on the Race together and we were just happy to be there doing it.
The Race has broken and saved relationships. How did it affect yours?Meghan: We didn’t come into it thinking it would make or break us. Instead we looked at it as an opportunity to compete in the ultimate race and see all these countries together. We knew that getting along would help us and fighting would hurt us so we tried not to fight and when we disagreed, we tried to resolve it and move on. It’s not about the money although it’s a great addition to our lives. It reaffirmed to me that we are a great couple and that Cheyne will always be there for me. It made us better and stronger.
Before racing began, Meghan hoped it would make her a less fearful person. Did it work?Meghan: I’m a very fearful person, but also a competitive, determined person who doesn’t like things getting in my way. The Race was a great reason for me to get over it. I was never afraid on the Race. I didn’t have time to be. It was a huge accomplishment for me to shed my fears and take everything as it came. Typically I would have been too scared to go down that slide in Dubai but I told myself, “This is why you are here. Don’t you want to win?” I hope I can maintain that fearlessness in life. Cheyne: I was so proud. She was so in the zone the whole time that I don’t think they could have thrown anything at us that would have stopped her.
You went to the wrong hotel in Vegas, which could have cost you it all. Cheyne: That thought crosses your mind, but we were very calm that leg, more than on any other. You can’t worry about the mistakes or give up. We never thought we were out. Meghan: We also didn’t know how close to the end that was so we worked off the assumption that we’d be able to catch up.
Boy, did you. You blew through the poker chip counting.Meghan: If the poker girls had been there, we would have been toast because they can stack chips in their sleep. Luckily, Cheyne likes poker and plays with his friends a lot so I let him do his thing and I just collected stuff as fast as I could. The other teams seemed to be counting each and every chip so we managed to get ahead again.
What are you plans for your winnings?Meghan: We have been debating this for a couple of months whenever we were alone at dinner. The whole time Cheyne planned to buy a white Range Rover if we won. Cheyne: That would be the impulse buy but I’m trying to keep my impulses in check. Also we won so many awesome prizes that I don’t need to buy impulse stuff. I’ve wanted jet-skis since high school and my perfect day would be waking up at a ski resort and we won a trip to Aspen. So we will probably do the smart thing and invest in a house. In California, that will probably eat up all the winnings.
Any favorite and least favorite tasks or stops?Meghan: I liked the volleyball challenge in Estonia. I played in high school. My least favorite challenge was easily the hay bales in Sweden. Vietnam was incredible and had never even considered it as a place to go on my own, but there was so much history and the were so helpful and nice. Cheyne: It was a total culture shift from America, which was cool. My least favorite challenge was the golem task. It was physically demanding and it had already been a very long night. My favorite was driving the race car. When I read that clue, there was no question that I was doing that. It was a total pipe dream that made me consider going pro.
It’s a millionaire’s hobby. Maybe you can take it up now as a newly minted millionaire.Meghan: Let me remind you both that he’s only a half-millionaire.
Two words: community property. Maybe you should hurry up and get married. Cheyne: Engagement comes first. Maybe after we get the money we can start planning. Maybe we can do one of those wedding specials on CBS. It’ll happen eventually for sure.