Derek Ivey (4992) of the Syracuse Fire Department leads a large group of runners to the finish of the 27th annual Chase Corporate Challenge in Syracuse.
Melfi, Burdick add to title collection
as Syracuse companies enjoy 27th race
Results | Photo Gallery
Men's champion Mike Melfi and women's winner Laural Burdick meet the Syracuse media after their victories.
SYRACUSE, June 23, 2009 — Mike Melfi was a fresh-faced 22-year-old coming off an outstanding collegiate career at Marist when he took part in his first Chase Corporate Challenge.
Now 32, he still boasts a youthful visage and a major spring in his step. Most importantly, he has added the power of experience.
The latter was on display at the 27th running of the Chase Corporate Challenge as Melfi wore down Derek Powers of Stickley to take the men's individual title of this 3.5-mile road race in 18:22. Powers, a past champion at this out-and-back test on Onondaga Lake Park, checked in at 18:33.
“I've run this race eight times,” Melfi, a multiple-time champion and 2008 runner-up, said. “I know what to expect and it worked out beautifully tonight.”
Melfi is one of Central New York 's most decorated runners, but the Corporate Challenge holds a special place in his heart.
“We all worked a full day today and you can't say that at a lot of races,” Melfi said. “It is a unique race and great for the community. I've been competing in this race for 10 years and I feel like I'm part of the family now with Chase.”
The familial sensation was shared by all 6,151 runners and walkers from 243 companies. The Corporate Challenge is as much a part of the local landscape as the Carrier Dome and Heid's Hot Dogs. This was the 12th consecutive year the race for full-time workers has drawn 6,000 or more participants.
“It's great to come out as a company, support a terrific charity, and show team spirit,” said Nicole McManus, company captain for Unity Mutual Life.
JPMorgan Chase, the owner and operator of the race, made a donation for each entry to the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, with the funds being allocated for a Youth Workforce Development project.
In development also is the stellar running career of Laurel Burdick. The former Boston College standout and current employee at the Fayetteville-Manlius Schools won her second straight Chase Corporate Challenge women's title, breaking the tape in 20:03. She easily topped former champion Kristin White of Wegmans (21:05).
“I tend not to be a good heat runner,” Burdick said, noting the race-time temperatures that crept into the 80's. “I felt it at the turnaround, but I wanted to win because this is a special event. The course is not suited for me. I'm more of a runner who is strong on the hills, and this is flat. It was a good challenge for me.”
Theresa Garofalo, a sixth-through-eighth grade math teacher for the West Genesee Central School District, wasn't at the front of the pack, but she was successful in drawing 32 of her colleagues out to the race course. Ultimately, they are all winners.
A runner cools down with a post-race fire-hose shower.
“This is just a great way for us to wrap up the school year,” Garofalo said. “Our Superintendent Chris Brown is here along with teachers, teacher aides, secretaries. We love the all-inclusive nature of this race.”
School district participation in the Corporate Challenge shot up after this race moved from August to June in 2006. “We think it's great to hold the raced in June,” Garofalo said. “It's harder in August when people are off doing their own thing. Now we get to see teachers from all the different schools and we really feel a part of the whole corporate community.”
Juxtaposed against the school districts was a Central New York manufacturing institution, the Fulton Companies. Company captain Erin Sperry led 27 of her colleagues onto the race course, and they were there to celebrate.
“This is the 60th year for Fulton,” Sperry said, pointing to an aqua-colored team t-shirt that said ‘Running since 1949, try to keep up.' “This is a night for us to show how proud we are as a company and to doing something smart for ourselves.
“We enjoy promoting a culture of wellness and fitness,” Sperry continued. “We have an involved program that encourages people to exercise, eat right and quit smoking. The company pays for our participation here and it's the perfect fit of business and health.”
Proving that there can be a smart work/fitness balance were the two Most Senior Executive winners. Jim Bright of Dunk & Bright Furniture won the men's title in a quick 24:32 and Barbara Ashkin of CX Companies earned the women's crown in 39:18.
Syracuse University was the most ardent supporter of the event, and actually found its way into the record books with its 450 total participants. That is the most ever for a single team in the 27-year history of this race. Other formidable teams included Wegmans (239), Onondaga County Dental (193), St. Joseph 's Hospital (164), Welch Allyn (153), Practice Resources (115), The Penn Traffic Co. (100), Crouse Hospital (99), AXA Equitable (93) and Onondaga County (89).
Trying to catch their shadows, runners take off on a 3.5-mile course in the 27th annual Syracuse Chase Corporate Challenge.
Three companies stood out creatively. CNY Spine Group, Dupli Envelope & Graphics and SUNY Oswego were the winners in the creative T-Shirt contest and each earned a $500 donation to the charity of their choice.
The Syracuse media contingent saw the appeal of the race, with Channels 3, 5, 9 and News 10 Now all sending live camera crews to the shores of Onondaga Lake. Melfi and Burdick gave them a good show at the front of the pack, and the more than 200 company tents were colorful backdrop.
Syracuse may be the smallest city in the worldwide JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series, but its enthusiasm is second to none.