Jeff Hojnacki of Magnetar Capital checks behind him before sprinting to a 1-second victory over Daniel Glaz of UPS in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Chicago. Hojnacki won in 17:11. Photos by Aynsley Floyd..
Chicago runs to a record of 22,766
with a little help from Bears Care
Official results | Photo Gallery
Nell Shields of DePaul University happily breaks the finish line tape in 19:23 to win.
CHICAGO, May 24, 2007 – The Windy City 's love affair with professional sports played out in record-breaking fashion on this night at the 26th annual JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.
With Bears Care Foundation serving as the beneficiary, participants came out in force on this warm, windy evening in Grant Park. A total of 22,766 entrants from 578 companies took part, demolishing the previous Chicago record of 19,031 entrants, set in 2006.
The tremendous turnout did not surprise Marge Hamm, Director for Bears Care, the charitable foundation for the NFC champion Chicago Bears.
“When I got back from the Super Bowl in Miami last year, I was overwhelmed by the contributions from the Chicago community,” Hamm said. “There were envelopes that had $5 donations right up to the thousands from area businesses. We love our sports in Chicago and we knew this partnership with the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge would be a success.”
JPMorgan Chase made a donation for each entry in the Corporate Challenge to Bears Care, and the football franchise in turn returned entertainment value to the participants. On hand was the team's mascot Staley Da Bear along with rookie running back Garrett Wolfe, a Chicago West Sider (Holy Cross High School) that went on to have a splendid collegiate career (over 5,000 rushing yards) at Northern Illinois.
Wolfe served as the official starter and then presided over the post-race awards stage, along with Bears play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak. Out on the race-course, a pair of high-profile former collegiate runners showed their talents.
Jeff Hojnacki, a 1997 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, won his first JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge men's individual title in 17:11. Representing Magnetar Capital, he won a thrilling duel against Daniel Glaz of UPS, outkicking him in the final 100 meters to win by one second.
Finishing kick brings a victory to Hajnacki
That finishing kick should not be surprising to those who know Hojnacki. He ran a 1:47.50 in the 800 for the Irish and, as a senior in 1997, was an All-America selection in the 800 and Distance Medley Relay.
“The middle distance racing in college helped,” smiled Hojnacki, who works in the sales and marketing/investor relations group at Magnetar, an investment company located in nearby Evanston. “It was a very tactical race with a tightly bunched pack for most of the race. In the last half mile, people started to press it, and in the last 100 I just gave it everything I had.”
Hojnacki was very familiar with his female counterpart on the winners' stage – Nell Shields of DePaul University. Hojnacki's brother Mark ran with Shields on the track and field team at the University of Michigan in the late 90's, shortly after Shields had won the 1996 Illinois state high school championship in the mile and two-mile.
“It was great to come out here tonight and see Jeff running fast again,” Shields said. “We've been friends for almost 12 years, and it's fun to see how our business lives and running are evolving.”
Shields had more than one reason to celebrate on this night. An assistant to the Chairman of the Management Department at DePaul, she is also a full-time student at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, graduating next week. “I felt like going on the loud speaker and telling all the companies here tonight, ‘I'm available now, hire me!'” Shields laughed.
Part of the record 22,766 sets out in Grant Park.
Shields, who finished second in 2006 to one of the great champions in Corporate Challenge history, American Airlines' Anette Ronnerman, bested Heather Giesen of Compsych for this victory. Shields came home comfortably in front in 19:23. Giesen ran a 19:58 and Ronnerman – who has seven total Corporate Challenge titles to her name in multiple cities – was third in 20:06.
“I love this race,” Shields said. “It's exciting with all the people, running on the streets where we work, seeing the sights, and then enjoying the spectators. It's exciting to win the race, but it's also great to be part of an event that really promotes the sport of running and fitness in general.”
Promoting balance in the workplace was the men's Most Senior Executive winner. Jeremie Bacon, CEO of Backstop Solutions Group, founded the company in 2003 and has helped it become a force in hedge fund software. On this night he showed his ability as a racer, completing the 3.5-mile Columbus Avenue course in 21:30.
Health Care Service Corporation was the most prolific company in terms of participation, entering 658 runners and walkers. Its headquarters building, in the shadow of Grant Park, choreographed its lighting to wish the employees good luck in the race.
Equally creative in their support were the three t-shirt winners – Corporate Identity, Infogix and Pactiv. Infogix got into the spirit of the evening with a design that featured the motto, “Bears Care, Infogix Does Too.”
Deloitte, CDW, Morgan Stanley, Caterpillar among large teams
Deloitte (464 entrants), CDW (452), Morgan Stanley (375) and Caterpillar (300) were among the other companies in Chicagoland that fielded huge teams. But there were plenty of start-ups and relatively new companies who were looking to create a marketing edge at the event, like Hojnacki's employer.
“Our company was founded in 2005 and this is the first year we have entered the Corporate Challenge,” said Hojnacki. “There were 12 of us out here out of a workforce of about 150, and next year will be much larger. This event is a great way to let the business community know you are out there.”
And it is an equally solid opportunity to give back to the Chicago community. The donation from JPMorgan Chase to Bears Care will primarily benefit programs that improve the quality of life for disadvantaged children and their families.
“This was a great night,” said Erica Wiczer, Senior Vice President at JPMorgan Chase. “The Corporate Challenge keeps growing every year, and we have a beneficiary that shares the same mission and values that we have. It was very worthwhile.”
Even more so for the hundreds of companies who kicked off their Memorial Day weekend in style with barbecue bashes along the beautiful expanses of Grant Park.