Tracked: Meet the global competitors vying to evade elite military trackers in NZ to win $100,000

Tracked will premiere this May on Three and ThreeNow.
Tracked will premiere this May on Three and ThreeNow. Photo credit: Warner Bros Discovery

A Mexican-Australian pair of friends who do parkour, a Christchurch couple who split and are now back together and some Australian "nimble nomads" all head into the wilds of Aotearoa's South Island.

It could be the start of a very bad joke, but in truth, these are just three of the eight teams competing on Three and ThreeNow's tough new reality show Tracked, hosted by Hollywood hardman Vinnie Jones. 

Competitors from around the world are dropped into the wilderness in what is being described as "the ultimate game of hide and seek". Their job is to avoid the elite trackers, both on the ground and in command centres as their physical and mental skills are tested like never before.

The Trackers team consists of a former NZ Defence force officer, a former British Marines Brigadier and the terrifying Active New Zealand Special Forces Trackers who are on the ground. Little is known about the ground trackers mainly due to their secret identities. 

As for the competitors, all 16 of the hopefuls share one trait: a fiercely competitive edge they think will propel them to success and see them survive extreme weather conditions as they battle to win $100,000. And of course avoid being caught.

One of the teams competing is Team Brown - Wānaka-based Gabe Ross and Riley Meason - who've crossed the Southern Alps dozens of times with nothing more than packs on their back, so they clearly know what they're doing.

But Ross says despite that, Team Brown is still prone to being caught out. 

"One of the first ever big trips we did together, we found ourselves right against the main divide of the Southern Alps and stayed out a little longer than we should have. This resulted in getting caught in a large snow storm and having to navigate back to a hut over many hours with dying headlights and no navigation devices - it was a great learning experience."

Meason says being caught short on another front is his worst fear, stating he couldn't survive in the wilderness without "a roll of toilet paper".

It's not just locals taking part in Tracked - competitors from across the globe have been choppered in to be involved.

US friends Megan Flanagan and Michelle Leachman (Team Purple) are betting on their stealth and their ability to out-run the Trackers to take home the win.

Podcaster Flanagan says her comrade's "relentless determination" will help them to victory, but leadership coach Leachman isn't so sure, claiming she needs her phone in the wild as she "lacks directional skills". Yet Leachman reckons her "hypersensitivity to sound" could be their secret weapon in the wild, adding: "I can't sleep if it's too loud."

Hoping Leachman's hearing skills won't upset their own chances is Team Yellow, the Australian -Mexican pairing of Danee Marmolejo and Stephania Zitis. Their mutual love of parkour saw them meet at an event in Japan and they have been leaping off sidewalks and buildings together ever since.

Two time Ninja Warrior: USA vs. The World competitor and Mexican stuntman Marmolejo says he wants to "demonstrate our agility, quick thinking and fitness as professional parkour athletes" in the competition. 

It's these skills which will help the teams to adapt to the rugged terrain and ever-changing landscape around them as the show's reality kicks in.

One half of Team Green and former US military specialist Corey Brooks knows a thing or two about tough conditions. With his IronMan tattoos and superhero obsession fuelled by his children, the Kentucky dad reckons his prior military service stands him in good stead to win.

The Tracked teams
The Tracked teams - from top to bottom: Team Red, Regan Pearce and Regan Pomare; Team Pink - Neil and Beth; Team Blue - Ryland and Rad; Team Purple - Megan and Michelle; Vinnie Jones, Team Yellow - Danee and Stephania; Team Brown - Gabe and Riley; Team Green, Corey and Megan and Team Orange - Simon and Caroline. Photo credit: Warner Bros Discovery

"During military training, we underwent an exercise called 'Hell Night' - roughly 20 hours of repetitive exercises, being pulled in-and-out of the water, and completing tests and quizzes to mentally exhaust us - all on only four hours of sleep. "

His team partner Megan Beck says evading the trackers should literally be a walk in the park: "I've never met a challenge that I couldn't beat. When I put my mind on something, I am determined to do whatever it takes to accomplish it. "

Bluster and bravado are to be expected in the game, but all of the competitors have some form of endurance in their genes.

When it comes to Team Pink, UK father and daughter Neil and Beth Eardley think their "tight family bond" will give them their edge.

"Competing in the Ironman triathlon in Mexico in 2021 has been my toughest challenge so far. We endured thunder and lightning during the sea swim, monsoon rain and flooding during the bike ride, and finally a hot and dry run where we ran out of water," he told Newshub.

His daughter Beth is no slacker either, having ridden around the world virtually in 2021.

"Getting up every day, for the whole year, and having to get on the bike was really tough physically and mentally."

Everyone has something to prove in the game, but perhaps none more than Queenstown-based Regan Pearce, who coerced his best mate Regan Pomere to take part in Team Red.

Both share a love of adventure racing and the great outdoors, but Pomare said it wasn't that which forced him to sign up.

"My motivation to enter Tracked was Regan Pearce. I would never let a mate down and he asked very nicely," he laughed.

For Pearce, he wants to show people they can do anything they want.

"[Being] Diagnosed at the age of 10 [with type 1 diabetes], I was told very early on that being diabetic would stop me from doing so many things, but I have never let my condition be a reason or an excuse to not do anything I set out to achieve."

Tracked's terrifying Team Kahu who are on the ground trying to capture the competitors in NZ's wilds.
Tracked's terrifying Team Kahu who are on the ground trying to capture the competitors in NZ's wilds. Photo credit: Warner Bros Discovery

There could also be a return of a trans-Tasman rivalry brewing with self-described Freedom seeking nomads, Ryland Pearson-McManus and Rad McGowan, who make up Team Blue, confident they can win over their Kiwi counterparts.

Queensland-born Pearson-McManus works on feature films and producing documentaries across Australia, and knows how to go the distance for his goal. 

"Trekking over 150km from Newcastle down to Sydney barefoot and through bushfires was definitely something. I reckon an edge we could have over the other teams is abstract creative thinking, and following our intuitions and feeling over all else. I'd like to think we're both quite stoic in our approach to situations."

Teammate McGowan has already got plans for the big prize money.

"We want to win the $100,000 prize money to put towards land for a community, a sanctuary for alternative-living truth seekers - and heaps of events!"

Perhaps though, it could be Team Orange's Christchurch couple Simon Lines and Caroline Sewell who take the title. After all, they've got life experience - after 15 years together and three children, the couple called it quits only to reunite 18 months later and start their relationship afresh.

Sewell said she's used to frosty conditions - and she's not just talking about the end of a relationship.

"I have had frostbite in -24 degree weather; slept in my tramping pack in a riverbed when we couldn't find the hut; had five operations; run the Abel Tasman track; I've stepped off the edge of a crevasse, fallen through a snowbridge and slowly, carefully levered myself back out before it collapsed; and renovated six houses in 16 years and painted each one. I've had so many adventures with big physical challenges," she concurs.

But maybe for Lines, who says "a bag of lollies and the smell of fresh air" are what he needs in the wilderness, the pressure on them again after three children under five could be too much.

He says his idea of perfection is solitude.

"Deep underwater with the sound of silence and the unknown about to surprise you at any moment, or on top of a snow-capped mountain about to drop into a powder-packed slope with only yourself to control it," he reckons.

How that will help when the net is closing in remains to be seen.

Tracked is coming to Three and Three Now in May.