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S.C. couple join an 'Amazing Race'

Caite Upton is ready to hit the road again.

"It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life," Upton said. "It was very overwhelming, but it drained us.

"I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Racing around the world can be addictive.

The 16th season of "The Amazing Race" premieres at 8 tonight, and Lexington native Upton partnered with Columbia native Brent Horne to form one of the 11 teams globetrotting on the popular CBS program.

On the show's Web site profile, Upton and Horne are listed as dating models.

Caite (pronounced like Katie) Upton. That name sounds familiar, doesn't it?

When she flubbed a question at the Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant, she was known as Caitlin Upton. Her stumbling answer has been viewed more than 39 million times on YouTube.

(For the record - and for those snickering about her infamous rambling - Upton was cool and composed, and coherent, while speaking to this reporter during an interview last week.)

Upton returned to TV for the debut episode of "King of the Crown," the TLC show that followed Cy Frakes, a beauty pageant coach who owns the local store Gowns and Crowns. She also appeared in an ad for Wonderful pistachios.

The pressure she felt on the Miss Teen USA stage doesn't compare to the strenuous nature of "Amazing Race," which requires physical and mental endurance.

"A lot of times you put wear and tear on your body because of how long you're going and how fast," she said.

Horne, who wants to wait at least six months to recuperate before strapping on the backpack again, said there was no down time on the race - even on 15-hour flights.

"Because you're so anxious, you're constantly looking," he said. "Constantly planning and plotting."

For the viewer, the show is a beautiful snapshot of exotic countries, places we most likely will never visit. The camera pans countrysides and cities for us, but do the contestants get to take in the view?

"We try our hardest to suck in every moment," Upton said. "We do as best as possible."

Horne agreed - but the race still came first.

"Whenever we're put in a competition situation, we react," he said. "At times we'd catch ourselves (and) we had to focus in.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Upton and Horne will be watching the show edits for the first time tonight. They couldn't divulge specifics about their experience (our interview had a governor), but one slipped: Yes, they are still together after appearing on a show that can make or break relationships.

It's Valentine's Day, so the question had to be asked.

"It's an incredible ride," Horne said. "Relationship-wise, it pushes you to the limit."

The couple are throwing a premiere party for family and friends.

"I'm so excited," Upton said.

Upton has experienced fame's spotlight and glare. Is Horne ready to step under the light?

"I think so," he said. "I'm not so used to having my name thrown out (in) the national media.

"It's pretty overwhelming."

ON THE AIR

The 16th season of "The Amazing Race" debuts at 8 tonight on WLTX-19, cable channel 9. Local couple Brent Horne and Caite Upton will race around the world.

If you can't watch, follow Otis Taylor on Twitter, @otisatthestate, for live updates.

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