An excellent crowd of nearly 7,000 runners and walkers enjoyed the new generation of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Syracuse, covering 3.5 scenic miles along Onondaga Lake Parkway.

It was the 36th year of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in this Central New York college town but, in many ways, it was a new beginning.

The event featured a new race day (Wednesday rather than the traditional Tuesday), a different start time (6:45 p.m., 20 minutes later than usual), a picturesque starting line within Onondaga Lake Park, and an expanded hospitality area for post-race parties.  All the changes were designed to build on the success of the previous 35 years.

An excellent crowd of 6,754 runners and walkers registered from 260 companies and were rewarded with idyllic race conditions – 64-degrees, low humidity and light breezes for the starting gun.  Blended in with companies that have participated more than 30 years were several new businesses that are bringing a creative flavor to the Central New York landscape.

One of the new generation of companies that enjoyed the revamped race course and hospitality area was, an online collectible gaming marketplace that connects buyers and sellers, which registered 91 employees.

“We’re a growing company headquartered in Downtown Syracuse with over 200 employees across our many teams,” said Julianna Fahrenz, team captain for “The Corporate Challenge is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to come together and motivate each other while giving back to the greater community.”

TCGplayer grew its participation for the Corporate Challenge by creating a fitness-oriented winter for its employees.

“We had internal initiatives to help prepare our team for the big race,” Fahrenz said. “For example, we started a Fitness Challenge earlier this year and offered our employees treadmill desks that they can use in the office to get their steps in. Plus, since we’re located downtown, large groups of TCGplayers would often trek to the Creek Walk at lunchtime to walk or run.”

The ever-popular grocery chain Wegmans led the way in participation, registering 259 of its employees.  Crouse Health had second the second largest gathering with 192, followed by Upstate Medical University (189), Syracuse University (177), West Genesee School District (145).

“For school districts in particular, June signifies the end of the year, and it's the perfect time for us to come together and celebrate all of the hard work that we've put into making the school year so special and successful for our students,” said Laura Hesler, Team Captain for West Genesee School District. “We love the Corporate Challenge because it enables our employees from all over the district – teachers, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, technology support, therapists, administrative assistants, counselors, and the list goes on – to meet up, bond over our common goal of enriching the lives of our students and get a little exercise in the process. West Genny pride is incredible, and it really shows its face when we join at the Corporate Challenge every year!”

Upstate Medical University blends camaraderie and competition in its team.  Upstate earned a first-place finish in the 2017 Syracuse race, earning an invitation to the 2018 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship in Boston.

“We always try to engage our employees in community activities. This past Fall we highlighted the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge at a championship breakfast honoring Upstate’s fastest mixed running team,” said Upstate’s Team Captain, Suzanne Brisk. “Not only did the championship breakfast recognize Upstate’s pride in our employees, we feel it increased our numbers for this year’s Corporate Challenge.

“At Upstate, we really love a good challenge and the camaraderie that comes along with this event,” Brisk continued. “That’s why our employees come back year after year. It gives us an opportunity to come together, bond as a working unit and focus on our health. It's a win-win for all of us.”

And it was a win-win-win for Upstate’s Lee Berube and Syracuse University’s Sascha Scott.

Berube earned first-place in the men’s division with a time of 17:13.  He broke the finish-line tape for the third consecutive year on Onondaga Lake Parkway.  His winning time over the 3.5-mile course was 17:33 last year and 17:35 in 2016, so he enjoyed a bit more quickness with the new start and finish.

Scott earned the women’s division title in 20:32.  That is one second behind than the 20:31 she ran in 2017 and significantly quicker than her winning time of 21:20 in 2016.  Scott is now a four-time champion, having also won here in 2014.

Thomas Gruenewald from Raymour & Flanigan finished second in the men’s race with a time of 17:31, with Andrew Dionne of the Liverpool Central School District placing third in 17:49.  Lindsey White of Crouse Health was the women’s runner-up in 21:27, followed by Morrison Healthcare’s Katie Mutter in 21:48.

Along the theme of new and innovative, there was a first-time beneficiary: On Point for College. Since 1999, On Point has been helping first-generation students go to college, assisting more than 2,000 young people from application through graduation. On Point for College graduates are now include teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers and fire fighters and give back to the community through volunteer work, participation in politics, and being role models for young people in our community. Corporate Challenge participants can also assist On Point for College by supporting the organization’s annual “Golf for Grads” tournament at the Links at Erie Village on August 1.

Lockheed Martin, specializing in global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies, is another company who has tasted competitive success at this event.  Lockheed runners have been a presence at Corporate Challenge Championship events in New York, Johannesburg, Singapore, Chicago, Rochester and San Francisco.  But that’s not the only reason it participates.

“We advertise and communicate in every way possible to get the word out about the event including email, LM event website, video screens in the hallways, vertical banners at entrances, and a power point slide at monthly Unit Meetings,” said Lockheed Team Captain Christine Vecchio. “I had a great committee that I worked with to prepare for the Corporate Challenge to ensure every employee at our site knew about the event and knew that walkers were just as welcome as runners at the event.  We try to make it fun for everyone and provide food, raffles and t-shirts.”

The international crew members of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series will be plugged in tomorrow night, June 7, when the 26th running of the Frankfurt, Germany event is held.  A total of 63,870 runners – the largest number in the Series – have registered.