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Draymond Green of the world champion Golden State Warriors greets runners at the finish line of the 31st annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in San Francisco.

City of Champions
lives up to its billing

Chavez, Wells lead way in San Francisco Race

Legendary pitcher Vida Blue gets the crowd ready to run at the starting line.

SAN FRANCISCO, September 09, 2015 — With legendary pitcher Vida Blue and Draymond Green of the reigning NBA titleist Golden State Warriors on hand to cheer a capacity crowd, the "City of Champions" lived up to its lofty status today as new champions were crowned in two races — the 31st annual San Francisco J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge and the 32nd J.P Morgan Corporate Challenge Series Championship.

The two races began a half-hour later than the previous year in San Francisco — with the select field of Championship runners from around the world going off the starting line at McCovey Cove near AT&T Park five minutes before the start of the 7:15 p.m. San Francisco Corporate Challenge. And, with the Bay Area experiencing record-setting heat earlier in the day, the later-than-usual start time proved to be a blessing in disguise as the hot spell broke and cooler temperatures greeted the runners.

The sold-out crowd of 10,000 registered entrants from 330 companies in the San Francisco race started from McCovey Cove for the sixth straight year. And, in a city that sports the defending champions in two of North America's major professional sports titles (the Giants and the Golden State Warriors), Blue and Green both celebrated the fact the every participant at the starting line was a champion to them on this night. Green tweeted about the event to his 246,000 followers.

Following is a look at each of the races.

31st annual San Francisco Corporate Challenge

Twitter's Brooke Wells had her own champion in mind when she went to the starting line.

"One of the biggest motivations for me is that the wife of one of the directors at Twitter was diagnosed with ALS disease three years ago," said Wells. "About six months ago, I ran into her while I was running and she said, 'I wish more than anything that I could run right now.' I run for her, feeling her pushing me from behind. She's an amazing woman and I do it for her. I think about her all the time. The times I go into a bad spell, I think about how I have the chance to do this and it really pushes me."

That motivation carried Wells to a time of 17:57 and a seven-second victory over Scale Venture Partners' Cack Wilhelm.

In the men's race, Chris Chavez of UBS ran to a 20-second victory over Matt Duffy of Teespring.

"I wish I could have been racing against the other champions (from around the world in the Championship race) tonight," said Chavez, who is training for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials next year. "Maybe next year."

Twitter's Brooke Wells is congratulated on her women's individual title by (from left) Draymond Green, J.P. Morgan's Jim Wening, and Vida Blue.

Behind Wells and Chavez was a long line of runners and walkers from the Bay Area's leading companies. Many continued impressive streaks of competing in San Francisco's Corporate Challenge, including Salesforce, which once again sported the largest entered team with 901 entrants.

But Salesforce was hardly alone in its support of what has become a popular San Francisco running tradition.

As team captain Leana Lai watched her squad of 254 gather under the Genentech tent prior to the race, she reflected on what was happening.

"It's a really proud moment for me," Lai said. "As the team captain, I get to interact with my co-workers and I realized that we like to have fun, but we also like to give back to the community. This combines two passions of mine. I love where I work and I love running."

BioMarin Pharmaceutical team captain Cora Versaggi watched most of her 213-member team assemble for a photo. She, too, loved what she was seeing and explained why her co-workers support this event with such passion.

"What we love about this event is that it allows us to give back to our community," said Versaggi. "Our company is about trying to help patients and kids, and when we see another company in the community trying to do the same in terms of helping others, it just fits beautifully in how we operate."

Versaggi was speaking specifically of Year Up Bay Area, which, for the second year, was the beneficiary of the event.

Year Up Bay Area — one of 14 Year Up sites across the country — serves 400 students each year at its San Francisco and San Jose campuses. Nationally, Year Up serves 2,500 students each year. It connects corporate partners to a diverse pipeline of skilled, entry-level talent while providing young adults the skills, experience and support to empower them to reach their full potential. Please visit myyearup.org to check out "year up" stories from students and supporters.

Accenture takes a spirited team photo at the statue of Willie McCovey.

Meanwhile, at McCovey Cove, the waterside statue of Giant legend Willie McCovey was engulfed by another of the large teams in the event, Accenture, for a unique and scenic team photo filled with smiles.

"We've been a part of this event for many years," said team captain Peter Bowden. "It started with just 20 people, and then it grew to 50, and then it has been 135 the last few years. We're here because we're all promoting a healthy, active lifestyle among our employees and we want to be out here with all of our clients and competitors competing in an active environment."

32nd annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship

The City of Champions helped crown a new champion in the men's team race at the 32nd annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship, while a formerly dominant city reclaimed a title and a San Francisco resident came home to help capture another title.

Frankfurt's Memmert GMBH & Co. used consistently fast times from its four runners to surprise Transnet Engineering of Johannesburg and claim the men's team title for Germany. Memmert won with a combined time of 1:02:58, finishing well ahead of Transnet's 1:05:15, and the third-place finish of leading American team Raytheon of Boston (1:06:22).

"It was a little bit surprising," Sebastian Reinwand, who also captured the individual men's title in 15:09 in a photo finish with Martin Dent of Sydney's Department of Industry, said of his team's victory. "We are the first team in eight years, I think, to win and not be named Transnet Engineering.

"I think this race came at a very good time for us," Reinwand continued. "The German championships were just last week and we came into this race in very good shape."

Reinwand's point about Transnet's dominance is well taken, as the Johannesburg juggernaut won titles the last three years, with Bolt & Tool Africa winning in 2011. Before then Transnet won in 2010, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Meanwhile, HSBC women's team got London back into the winner's circle at the Series Championship. The team of Lara Bromilow (18:36), Nicola Kent (20:05), Danielle Walsh (22:06) and Susan Cooper (22:29) combined for an overall time of 1:23:16, good enough to edge Frankfurt's Allianz Deutschland (second) and Sydney's Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

"We've been third and second (in the Championship) so it feels great to break through and win," said Bromilow, who recalled the glory days of Royal Mail Letters, a team that brought numerous Series titles to London more than a decade ago.

For Stefan Irion, the mixed team title he helped his Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center team of New York capture was not only proof you can go home again, but do it in style.

"Winning (a championship here in the City of Champions) was the first thing that came to my mind because I used to live in San Francisco and I know all the teams, so it's really special to be a champion in the City of Champions," Irion said.

Memorial Sloan Kettering ran a combined time of 1:14:16 to edge Boston's Fidelity Investments (1:15:11) and GE in Chicago (1:15:51).

The capacity crowd breaks from the starting line in San Francisco.

The 39th season of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series now moves to China on Sept. 17 for the fifth running of the event in Shanghai. The 13-city, 2015 Series then concludes Nov. 11 with a race in Sydney, Australia.

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