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Good times prevailed at the 20th annual Chase Corporate Challenge in Rochester. In the top photo, Michelle Fee of Precision Grinding (PGM Corp.) and Lynn Sullivan of ABVI-Goodwill Industries (#115) accept American Airlines Company Captain drawing awards from Karen Cooper of American Airlines (#280), as Scott Geller (back row) and Sandy Wolcott (right) of JPMorgan Chase look on. Above left, Chris Cummings (#4518) shares some smiles with his Manning & Napier colleagues before the race. Above right, members of Palmer Food Services gather for a photo. (Ken Huth photos)

Rochester celebrates 20th Corporate Challenge
with fast times, happy times at RIT
Results | Photo Gallery

Runners sprint from the starting line at Rochester.

ROCHESTER, June 3, 2010 — For one night, at least, Michelle Fee of Precision Grinding (PGM Corp.) was in the majority. Of the 9,102 participants in the 20th annual Chase Corporate Challenge® in the Flower City, 4,961 (55-percent) were women.

That is a far cry from what Fee works around each day at PGM.

“In our main office, we have 120 employees, and 115 are men,” laughed Fee, PGM's Director of Human Resources. “But I love working there; and especially when I can help us get involved like an event like this, which is all about camaraderie and wellness.”

Fee spoke among a 100-yard backdrop of corporate hospitality tents fit neatly into the Bowl at the Rochester Institute of Technology, this event's annual staging area. A former personal trainer, she looked around and noted that many of the participants were not there to run a fast time, but to just work toward their own physical fitness goals.

“And I think that is great,” she said. “For the past several months we have had Thursday night training runs at PGM to get our guys ready for the Corporate Challenge. They hear the same message from me, ‘Take it easy, know your pace.' We have a lot of new runners out here and they're taking the first steps toward something special. It's great for them individually, and us as a company.”

Twenty years have flown by for this 3.5-mile race, the biggest in Monroe County in upstate New York. The very first Corporate Challenge, held in 1991 in Highland Park, drew just 816 total participants. The throng on this night represented the second-most companies ever.

And the new breed is coming in. The men's and women's individual champions were both first-time winners. Mark Andrews, racing for Fleet Feet Sports, broke the tape in an impressive 17:47, besting Chad Byler of Navitar, Inc. by 39 seconds. Morgan Burrows, representing Corning Inc., earned the women's crown in 20:02, racing 30 seconds ahead of Byler's wife Trisha, running for Danisco. The Bylers may have been second-place finishers, but they are the first family of running in Rochester.

Andrews and Burrows were attracted to the race largely because of the great prize awaiting the first place men's, women's and mixed teams — a trip to Singapore for the 2011 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship. Team results will be announced in the next two weeks, pending verification of eligibility of each runner.

Mark Andrews of Fleet Feet Sports and Morgan Burrows of Corning win titles.

The other 9,000-plus put in their best efforts in representing themselves, their companies, and to make an impact in the community. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation made a donation for each entry to the Rochester Urban Fellows Program, which provides undergraduate college students with the opportunity to work with community-based organizations and agencies during the summer.

Chris Cummings, Managing Director of the Client Analytics Group for Manning & Napier, was proud of his company's dress code for the evening. The investment advisory group was one of two winners in the creative t-shirt contest, joining Foodlink in earning a $1,000 donation to a charity of choice.

“We had a little fun putting together a t-shirt that reflected a green theme,” Cummings said. “Of course, the green means environmental, but it's also a nice play on words to our work in investment counseling. We know our green.”

A number of clients that Manning & Napier work with also had teams at RIT, but this wasn't a night to be giving out stock market advice. “We see people we work with on an ad hoc basis out here,” Cummings said. “It's great to see our colleagues, our clients, and the entire community in a friendly, healthy setting. That's part of what makes this race special.”

The University of Rochester earned a Tiffany award for having the Largest Participation with 277 total entrants, followed by Wegmans (192), Harris Corp. (184), Unity Health System (173), Paychex (156), Chase (152), RIT (110) and the Greece Central School District (105).

Palmer Food Services didn't have massive numbers — 27 employees were in the starting chute — but it participated with pride expected from a company that has operated in Rochester for 160 years.

“We're a fifth-generation, family-run company,” explained CFO Jack Whittier. “We provide everything from prime steaks to paper napkins to people in the restaurant industry. And we're proud to continue to do business here in Rochester.”

Whittier is an experienced, dedicated runner, with three marathons under his belt. He took on the company captain role at Palmer for a dual purpose — to generate participation from his colleagues, and also to show respect for some clients.

“For example, RIT is our single biggest customer,” Whittier said. “To come out and participate here on their campus makes a lot of sense. It's a nice tie-in.

“And,” Whittier continued, “I definitely want us to do whatever is necessary to get 100 employees out here next year. I would love it. The word of mouth will spread fast.”

It was a calm pre-race — with light breezes and temperatures in the mid-70's. The 7 p.m. race time hour brought steady rain for about 30 minutes, cooling the race course and contributing to impressive times (the top seven men all ran 18:43 or faster). But when the rain cleared, a rainbow appeared and the post-race party in the Bowl went on and on.

(For comments on JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series features, or suggestions for feature stories, please contact Alan Tieuli at series-info@jpmorganchasecc.com )


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