Leah Powell of the Bonadio Group smiles through the raindrops as she makes her way along the course at Rochester Institute of Technology. Ken Huth photos.
Spirit shines through raindrops
at 19th Rochester Corporate Challenge
Results | Photo Gallery
Morgan Howe of Bene-Care (2947) doesn't let heavy rain at the start dampen her spirits. Nor did Neal Holtschulte of Klein Steel (below) let the rain slow him down as he won in 17:01.
ROCHESTER, May 28, 2009 — More than 9,000 runners and walkers dealt with heavy rain for every step of their 3.5 miles, but the inclement weather couldn't curb the enthusiasm at the 19th annual Chase Corporate Challenge in Rochester.
“We have more people here than we've ever had before,” smiled Justin Runke, an attorney and partner at Harris Beach. “The weather was probably more of a benefit for us than a deterrent.”
After an afternoon of threatening skies and intermittent showers, the clouds opened just as the 7 p.m. starting horn went off. With little wind, no lightning and warm temperatures, however, the race went smoothly.
The top times were also unaffected. Neal Holtschulte, representing Klein Steel, won his first Chase Corporate Challenge title in 17:01. That was 11 seconds faster than his men's runner-up time to Jeff Beck in 2008. Trisha Byler of Danisco was the women's champ in 20:32, with Sarah Nazarian-Elliott of Pittsford Central Schools a close second in 20:45. That was 65 fewer seconds than Nazarian-Elliott needed to reach the finish line last year.
It was a great night overall for the Byler family. Trisha's husband, Chad (running for Navitar), finished third in the men's race in 17:46. Former champion Dave Bradshaw of the Palmyra Macedon Central School District was a solid second in 17:15.
The persistent rain forced the cancellation of the post-race awards ceremony and cut short some of the post-race parties on the beautiful Rochester Institute of Technology campus. But there was still plenty of camaraderie and networking to go around.
“This was a great event for our employees and it's important to be out here with other companies,” noted John Perrotti, CEO and President for The Gleason Works, a gear machinery producer and one of Rochester 's iconic companies. “This is a small community, and everybody knows everybody. You want to have a presence at this event. It is fun for CEOs and employees.”
Rachel Collins, director of treasury operations for Gleason, served as company captain and signed up 26 colleagues. “Being in finance, I don't get much of an opportunity to talk to guys on the shop floor,” she said. “This gives us all a chance to mix and promote unity in the company.”
Exactly 9,059 runners from 414 companies took part in an event that has been held in the Flower City each spring since 1991. This gathering attracted the second most companies ever, trailing only last year's 439.
The participants made a tangible difference in the community as the JPMorgan Chase Foundation made a donation for each of its entries to the Urban League of Rochester, with the funds specifically ear-marked for Youth Workforce Development.
The Bonadio Group, Upstate New York's largest accounting firm, fielded a team of 37 employees. “We find this a strong opportunity to get to know our people inside the company on a more personal level,” Kourtney Gagliano, from Bonadio's HR department, said.
And there were some tangible business benefits as well. “A client came into our tent asking for me,” related Debbie Zarzycki, quality control director for the tax department at Bonadio. “We love it when we see clients here. It's one of the real benefits of participating.”
Members of the Harris Beach team join company captain Justin Runke (4th from right) in a group photo before the race.
Morale building was the driving force behind the formation of the Harris Beach team. Runke, who juggled his hours as a partner to serve as the Harris Beach company captain, described the Corporate Challenge as “an important event for the company.
“We pay for everything,” Runke said. “We give our employees a Harris Beach t-shirt, a picnic lunch, and the entry fee. It's a great kickoff for summer and important for our employee morale. We have everyone from one of our most senior partners, to our newest associates, to a good chunk of support staff here and they are all laughing together.”
Matt Kellman of DPI, a commercial printing outfit, won the men's Most Senior Executive category in a terrific time, 19:59. Kathryn O'Neill successfully defended her women's MSE title in 24:21, 25 seconds faster than her 2008 triumph.
5Linx/Globalinx, Jewish Senior Life and Lewis Tree Service brought some color and creativity to the event, each winning a $500 donation to charity for winning the team T-Shirt Competition.
Rachel Collins, far right, joins members of her Gleason Works team for a photo.
Three lucky company captains — Tricia Capone of LeChase Construction Services, Kelly Dobson of Wells Fargo Advisors, and Heather Kent of York Central Schools — won a random drawing for a pair of round-trip American Airlines tickets. The tickets are good to any U.S. or Caribbean destination that American services.
All 414 company captains deserve a tip of the fedora for their gallant efforts in registering their teams and battling the elements on this rainy evening. The pride in their companies came through clearly.
“We have a great bunch of men and women working at Gleason,” Collins said. “We love spending this time together, and the rain actually makes it even more memorable.”