A field of 11,457 stretches out at the 2010 Chase Corporate Challenge in Buffalo.
Inspiration from 2001 Corporate Challenge
helps Tonawanda earn trip to Singapore
BUFFALO, Feb. 4, 2011 — You never really know where the power of inspiration will take you. For four teachers from Buffalo, inspiration from a Chase Corporate Challenge race in 2001 is taking them on an adventure to Singapore.
The four are members of the Tonawanda City School Corporate Challenge team, which won the Mixed team title at Buffalo in June. The seeds of that victory, however, were sown almost a decade earlier for a key member of the team, Liz Randell.
“I started running in 2001, when I prepared for and ran the Buffalo Chase Corporate Challenge — my first race ever,” said Randell, an art teacher for 23 years, 11 of them in Tonawanda. “I enjoyed the race so much, I went on to run several others that fall and did really well in my age group. On a whim, I entered the 2002 New York City Marathon, got in, and ran a race that just qualified me for Boston — 3:45. I immediately got hooked on marathoning, and ran 11 more after New York. In 2009, I ran and won the Toronto GoodLife Marathon in 2:57. I was then invited to run the Boston Marathon in 2010, as an elite. As of this writing, I’ve run 15 marathons and improved my time by nearly an hour.”
As if becoming a sub-3-hour marathoner isn’t enough evidence of how far inspiration can carry you, Randell finished fourth in the Women’s race in the Buffalo Chase Corporate Challenge last June in a time of 21:39. Her showing, along with efforts from fellow teachers Trish Hilbert, Jim Schraufstetter and Jon Lacki lifted Tonawanda past Newfane Central and its star runner, Mike Heitzenrater, a former Male champion at Buffalo, to the Mixed Team title.
And that proved that inspiration can carry you halfway around the world because Tonawanda’s title earned them a trip to the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship, which will be held in Asia for the first time in its 28 years when it is run in Singapore on April 21.
Joining Tonawanda in Singapore from Buffalo will be Niagara Wheatfield Central School District, winner of the Female division, and Male team champion Moog. They will compete against the first-place teams from the other 11 cities in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series.
As educators, the four Tonawanda runners see lessons from running that apply to their students. For starters, the victory and trip to Asia are examples of a huge life lesson: The value of setting goals and working to make them become a reality.
|2011 Buffalo Championship qualifiers
|Simon Curran, Adam Demski, David Gawelo, Eric Little
|Lindsey Jerge, Amanda Kelly, Kate Kohout, Kristen McGuinness
TONAWANDA CITY SCHOOLS
|Patricia Hilbert, Jim Balcom, Elizabeth Randell, James Schraufstetter
“There is a core group of runners in the Tonawanda district,” said Hilbert. “Individually, we compete locally and nationally. When we learned that there was a chance of winning this year, we really took the race seriously. We thought we'd have a pretty good shot with the caliber of runners we had.”
And yet, because of the team nature of the Corporate Challenge, they didn’t really know if they had won for several days.
“The trip to Singapore came as a big shock!” said Randell. “At first, we didn’t think we’d won the race – it was several days before we got the official word. Since our team all works in different buildings, we had to communicate our excitement through email messages to each other!”
Tonawanda finished just 45 seconds ahead of runner-up Newfane Schools. The victory almost didn’t happen at all, however.
“I almost took it easy when I saw another teammate ahead of me in our qualifying race in Buffalo,” said Schraufstetter. “I thought we had the top two guys ahead of me so no worries. Then pride took over and I gave it all I had to get a personal best. Come to find out that person was not a team member and my time was the second best for the men of our mixed team. If I would have slowed down, we might not be here.”
And now the team, with Jim Balcom replacing Lacki, Tonawanda’s fastest finisher in Buffalo, faces a huge challenge and adventure.
“I couldn’t imagine running with a more dedicated and fun group of people,” said Schraufstetter, a middle school science teacher at Tonawanda for 12 years and a US Air Force veteran, who served in Gulf War. “I have known Trish, Liz and Jim for quite a while now and it’s nice to have qualified with people I know well. I am sure we will get to know each other even better being with each other for a week in one of the more beautiful places on earth, Singapore. This will be an experience I will relish for a life time.”
“My reaction?” asked Hilbert, the 2009 Buffalo Runner of the Year in the Women's 35-39 year-old age group and a teacher at Tonawanda for 12 years. “I started shaking thinking about that long trip. I had trouble locating Singapore on a map.”
The long trip and extreme change in weather conditions — from Buffalo’s snowy and cold winter to Singapore’s heat and humidity — are just two of the challenges the team will face. They will also be competing against the best corporate teams in the world.
But, sometimes, winning isn’t the most important thing. Competing and doing your best is. That’s particularly true when you are teachers and you’ve been handed a golden opportunity to teach your students some valuable lessons in a most unique way.
Kristen McGuinness runs hard as she nears the finish in the 2010 Buffalo Chase Corporate Challenge. McGuinness' time of 24:28 helped Niagra Wheatfield CSD capture the Women's title and earn a trip to Singapore.
“I teach elementary PE and believe in lifelong fitness,” said Balcom. “I fly C-130's for the Air National Guard and I’m the fitness monitor for our squadron and will be deploying for a third time this summer.”
“As an educator,” said Hilbert, “I hope to promote the idea of being a life-long learner. Running is something I started doing later in life. The experience of travelling to run will set an example to students to reach for dreams and seize opportunities.”
“This will be an experience we can share with our students,” added Schraufstetter. “We are modeling the fact that good things come to those who work hard and live a healthy life style.”
Randell recounted a trip she took last year to a week-long workshop at the Art Institute of Chicago.
“I met many art educators from around the world, including a teacher from Singapore,” Randell said. “I knew at the time that we’d be coming to Singapore, and he invited me to visit his classroom and see his school. There are many educators going to Singapore right now, including an art educator I know who just came back to the US. She is willing to talk to us and show us pictures from when she worked there – I am looking forward to seeing what other countries do with the arts, particularly during these times of cutbacks.”
And then, there is the lesson of the power of inspiration. Perhaps this trip will spark a student to set a goal or discover an activity like running. Or, perhaps someone in the 2011 Buffalo Chase Corporate Challenge field, which each year includes hundreds of area educators, will have their life enhanced, just as Randell did in the 2001 Chase Corporate Challenge in Buffalo.
“It is surprising how many educators are runners,” said Randell. “I have often speculated that it is in the nature of educators to be drawn to that sport. We have high energy jobs that require stamina and sharpness. Our jobs are also stressful. Running gives us an opportunity to get away for a bit and relax. Running also appeals to educators, who tend to be organized and goal oriented.
“I would love to see a program in our district that helps people get ready for the Corporate Challenge every year. The great thing about the race is that it doesn’t have to be a run, and walking is just as beneficial to health as running! Also, as a person who got hooked on running through the Chase Corporate Challenge, I’d like others to have the chance for that to happen to them.”