In the four-year history of the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge, at least one former competitor on the CBS reality show, “Survivor,” always made it to the final three.

That all changed Sunday as Ryan Kaiser of Bloomington, Ill., Rachel Presby of Hollis and Maria Bruno of New Brunswick, N.J., made it out of the tribal councils as the top three. Then, with little drama, Kaiser won all eight votes to become  the 2016 Durham Warriors Survival Challenge winner.

Proceeds from the event, hosted by former “Survivor” champion Bob Crowley and his wife, Peggy, in the woods around Maine Forest Yurts in Durham, benefit the military and service groups who get to spend nights in the Cowleys’ yurts. Peggy Crowley said Sunday she did not yet have a count of the money raised. The event generated $14,000 last year. Approximately 70 volunteers donated their time.

By later Sunday, Kaiser already had left the Crowleys’ home. Mike Allbright, an event volunteer, said that Kaiser was a clear winner.

“He was just extremely social and he did very well physically,” Allbright said. “He won three of the individual immunity challenges.”

The final 11 competitors had merged from the original four tribes into a tribe called Chloa, and then individual challenges began on Saturday.

The Crowleys set up each of the three eight-person teams with two former “Survivor” contestants. Team Opa (purple) had two-time contestant Spencer Bledsoe of Chicago (Cagayan, Cambodia) and Twiler Tanner of Bonnell, Fla. (Vanuata). Team Sawa (green) featured Kyle Jason of Detroit (Kaôh R?ng) and Kelly Shinn of Phoenix (Nicaragua), while Team Ahaso (red) had Matt Bischoff of Cincinnati (Caramoan) and Nina Acosta of Clovia, Calif. (One World). Blesdoe was the last former “Survivor” competitor voted out of the individual competition.

Team Opa started fast in Friday’s first full day of competition, winning the first two challenges. Big Derek Meredith of West Virginia, who missed the cut for this year’s “Survivor: Kaôh R?ng,” and the much smaller Bledsoe combined their talents to pull Team Opa through in the barrel challenge. Samantha Belanger of Lisbon also competed for Team Opa.

In the barrel game, contestants try to move four barrels 50 feet along two planks – without touching the ground, Bob Crowley said. The first team to get its eight people across without touching the ground wins.

“We try to do as much new stuff that we can every year,” he said. “A lot of it comes from ‘Survivor,’ but we try to add a new twist.”

Belanger, 21, is a production technician for FHC of Bowdoin, which makes medical and surgical devices used in brain surgery. Like Meredith, Belanger also applied without success to “Survivor: Kaôh R?ng.” Soon afterward, she reached out to the Crowleys and was chosen to compete in the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge.

“This is wonderful,” Belanger said during a break between the barrel and dominoes challenges. “It’s fun, I’m getting to meet a whole bunch of new people and I get to be out in the wilderness.”

Belanger was in the middle of Team Opa during the barrel challenge.

“I helped move the barrels, and I helped weigh down the board for the guy who was in the back,” she said.

Following an initital get-together at the Crowley farm, across Auburn/Pownal Road from Maine Forest Yurts, the tribes all moved to the competition area and tented out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The final Tribal Council is always on Sunday, and the winner is announced, followed by a banquet.

Other Maine contestants included John Hamer of Winterport for Team Ahaso  and Alex MacDonald of Saco for Team Sawa.

The scene from the hilltop overlooking the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge last Friday at Maine Forest Yurts.

Samantha Belanger of Lisbon holds up the Team Opa banner last Friday at the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge.

Peggy Crowley, wife of former “Survivor” winner Bob Crowley, chats with Durham Warriors Survival Challenge board member, volunteer and radio personality Chuck Igo during the competition at Maine Forest Yurts last Friday.

Former Survivor winner Bob Crowley, who with his wife Peggy and daughter Page  host the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge, points out something to a reporter last Friday.

A bucket of pollock awaits the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge contestants who competed in the Fish Toss last Friday at Maine Forest Yurts.

Amanda Sarhatt of Michigan   stacks the wooden blocks for Team Ahaso to start the Dominoes challenge in the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge last Friday at Maine Forest Yurts.

The view of the competition area of the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge, from the other side of tiny Walkabout Pond.

Penny Hilton of New Gloucester knits between events last Friday at the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge. She and her husband David are big fans of the event.

Team Opa celebrates its victory last Friday morning in the Barrel challenge, at the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge.

Derek Meredith of West Virginia, left, and Spencer Bledsoe of Chicago guide Team Opa to victory in the Barrel challenge last Friday during the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge, at Maine Forest Yurts in Durham.

Brian Kaiser, left, holds the “Bobster” trophy he earned Sunday by winning the fourth annual Durham Warriors Survival Challenge. Kaiser stands next to Russell O’Kane, who won the first challenge.


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