Brian Vislosky, Strategic Information Manager for CXtec and its Company Captain, is interviewed by Channel 9's Alyson Megur before the start of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Syracuse.
Syracuse meets challenge of hot weather
with impressive performances
Results | Photo Gallery
Karen Haller of Constellation Energy and Brian Donnelly of the Syracuse Fire Department finish strong.
SYRACUSE, June 26, 2007 – There was no stopping the 25th running this time.
After a cancellation in 2006 due to extreme heat, the 2007 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Syracuse went on as scheduled and 6,179 runners and walkers from 268 companies withstood 90 degree temperatures and still air at Onondaga Lake Park. It was the 10th consecutive Corporate Challenge with more than 6,000 people in this Central New York city.
When race day dawned, event organizers were wondering what they had done to anger the Running Gods. After the 2006 cancellation, the event was moved from the first week of August to the last week of June, due to historically lower temperatures.
So much for that. It was 92 degrees at noon, but the humidity was relatively mild and Onondaga County stepped up with a generous offer to periodically hose down the 3.5-mile Onondaga Lake Parkway course. By the 6:25 p.m. race time, the temperature had dropped into the 80's and the pavement was suitably cooled for safer running conditions.
Ninety minutes later all the participants were in safely and officially the 25th Running was in the books, with Todd Halbig of Purcell's Paint & Wallpaper and Eileen Combs of National Grid crowned as the individual men's and women's champions.
“I knew it was going to be hot but I figured we were all in this together,” smiled Combs, an engineer in the natural gas department at National Grid. “For everybody who crossed the (finish) line tonight, hey, great job. You should be really proud of yourself.”
And the participants should also be proud that they were part of an event that was historic and meaningful to the community. The first Corporate Challenge was held in Syracuse in 1982 with 600 participants. It has hosted more than 6,000 each of the last 10 years and is a galvanizing event for the business community throughout Central New York.
“The Corporate Challenge is a great opportunity to do something different outside of work and get a little exercise,” said Brian Vislosky, Strategic Information Manager for CXtec, a distributor of computer networking equipment. “And we understand the Corporate Challenge benefits a couple of great local charities. That means a lot to CXtec and we're very committed to the community.”
Indeed, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation made a donation for each entry to Junior Achievement of Central New York and the Make A Wish Foundation, Central New York. That is part of the more than $500,000 donated worldwide in 2007 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge events.
POMCO Group, a benefits administrator, brought out 97 people, more than half of its Syracuse work force. While the group celebrated post-race with a light, healthy catered meal, team captain Jeff Bater gave his view on the popularity of the Corporate Challenge.
“I really think it is because people enjoy doing something out of work that is not a normal corporate function,” Bater said. “It builds that camaraderie, that team spirit. You get to see each other sweat and share a feeling that ‘I did it!' “
The local media embraced the spirit of the event as the Syracuse Post-Standard provided a race-day feature on the front page and the four primary television affiliates in the market broadcast the start of the race live.
“It's a big deal here,” said Halbig, the men's winner who has worked at Purcell's Paint & Wallpaper for 16 years. “To win this race is quite an accomplishment locally.”
On a day when temperatures climbed into the 90s with high humidity, Jason Barnes (4177) of Team Onondaga keeps his cool.
And Halbig is making a name for himself on the Syracuse roads. The 31-year-old did not run in high school and only took up running when a former Purcell's colleague asked him if he wanted to run in a 1996 marathon, the famous Marine Corps race in Washington, D.C.
“I said yes, but I had no idea what I was doing,” said Halbig. “Turns out I had some running talent and I beat my colleague, running about three hours and 12 minutes.”
Halbig caught the bug big-time and joined the cross country and track and field programs at SUNY-Brockport. Now he is a top-notch marathoner (PR of 2:34) and a regular presence in the top five of the top races in the area.
This was Halbig's first Corporate Challenge victory, coming home in 18:56 to beat Matt Mallet of Lockheed Martin by seven seconds. Nathan Hoffman of General Electric was third in 19:05, Gerry Mcomber of Carousel Industries fourth in 19:06.
Women's champion Combs is another accomplished marathoner, having run an impressive 2:50:19 in winning the Kentucky Derby Festival last month. She resumes marathon training on Monday with an eye on achieving the Olympic Trials qualifying time of 2:47 at the Twin Cities Marathon in October.
“I grew up here in Liverpool, so it's nice to come home for a victory,” said Combs, who now works in Schenectady after prepping at the University of Louisville. “What I'm really happy about is that 44 people came out from National Grid tonight. That's triple the number from past years.”
Combs – who was caught in traffic on Old Liverpool Road about an hour before the race, an event that actually calmed her nerves -- out-dueled multiple-time Corporate Challenge champion Kristin White of Wegman's. Combs broke the tape in 20:46, White 21:07 and third-place finisher Tracey Fishkin of Northeast Interior Systems in 22:50.
James Cody of the Syracuse V.A. Medical Center (24:29) and Michele Sardinia-Baker of Syracuse.com (39:40) were the men's and women's Most Senior Executive champions.
Welch Allyn had 220 participants, the largest gathering on the night. More than 130 of the companies had tents, almost engulfing the green space of the old Griffin Stadium hard by the banks of Onondaga Lake.
And now Syracuse – after a brief, false start -- gets ready to celebrate its second 25 years in the Corporate Challenge Series.