Ahead of the pack in the race above, Jessica Snyder is likely to be the only elite cross country skier on the starting line in Johannesburg, South Africa when the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship is held on March 4. Snyder, at right in inset photo, credits her demanding "main" sport with helping her finish third at Rochester in May. She'll join (from left in inset photo) Luke Mortensen, Christina Devries and Chris Hine in representing the University of Rochester in South Africa.
Skier helps University of Rochester
run away with title, trip to South Africa
Happy even as a downpour soaks their tent area at May's Rochester Corporate Challenge, members of Corning's team celebrate what was to a Men's team title. Representing Corning, a long-time fixture of the Corporate Challenge, at South Africa will be Scott Bickham (middle row in red), Alan Evans (right of Bickham) James Derick (right of Evans) and Peter Ronco (not pictured).
Veteran team at Corning
proves running's rewards
not reserved for young
ROCHESTER, NY, January 6, 2010 — The JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge has been providing inspiration for fitness and camaraderie in the workplace for 34 years. Sometimes, so do the teams that enter.
Corning's victory by more than five minutes in the Male division at May's Rochester Chase Corporate Challenge is a case in point. Authored by four Corning employees with an average age of more than 40, this was a win for the ages, proving that running's rewards are not reserved solely for the young.
"The margin of victory was a surprise," said Company Captain Mark Sanson. "There are quality runners in and around Rochester and to put together a team of guys with an average age of 40 or over and still be able to win by that margin is an accomplishment. The margin also was surprising since we had moved out our number three runner to a Mixed team to improve that team's chances of a top five finish."
For their efforts, Corning is being further rewarded with a trip to South Africa to compete in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship on March 4.
"At this point in my running career staying injury free in order to race competitively is a plus," said James Derick, a long-time member of Corning's team. "I never imagined that I would earn a trip to compete abroad. Doing this as a team makes it even more gratifying. I can't wait to do my part to represent Rochester as a city and Corning Inc."
A senior engineering technician at Corning Optical Fiber, Derick has been part of a team that long has been a fixture at Corporate Challenges in upstate New York, as well as the Championship.
"I've been running road races for over 28 years and have competed in the JPMorgan Chase series for 18 of those years, mostly in Rochester," said Derick. "We've qualified a team for the Championship in 17 of those 18 years, and over the years I've won individual titles in Rochester and Binghamton, and have placed second in Buffalo."
Alan Evans gives it his all at the 2007 Rochester Corporate Challenge.
Joining Derick on the trip to South Africa will be long-time teammate Alan Evans, a research director who has run Grandma's Marathon in Duluth every year for the last 29 years and specializes in ultramarathons from 50K to 100 miles.
"The 3.5 mile Chase Corporate Challenge is not my specialty, but competing with my work colleagues makes it very special," he said.
Rounding out Corning's team in Johannesburg will be Scott Bickham, a senior research associate, and Peter Ronco, a triathlete who has competed in the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.
The team, however, has had to leave behind its top runner, David Bronfenbrenner, a development scientist who finished fifth overall at Rochester in 18:01. But, said Sanson, don't feel too bad for Bronfenbrenner.
"He was subbed out because he has a baby due two days before the Championship," said Sanson.
The four teammates going to Johannesburg are looking forward to experiences they anticipate will be special.
"I'm excited to tour Johannesburg and experience the cultural differences between our countries," said Derick. "I'm also looking forward to racing against some of the best corporate teams in the world. All four of us who will be running in South Africa are over 40 years old and will be competing against runners who may be half of our age!"
At this stage of life, it is a special opportunity, even the stuff of inspiration.
ROCHESTER, NY, January 6, 2010 — The 2010 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship in Johannesburg, South Africa, will bring together corporate runners from five continents with backgrounds as varied as their locales. Perhaps none, however, will bring to Africa an athletic resume as surprising as that of Jessica Snyder.
The third place female finisher in a driving downpour at the Rochester Chase Corporate Challenge on May 28, Snyder helped her University of Rochester (UR) team capture the Mixed team title and earn a trip to Johannesburg for the Championship on March 5. She may have felt a bit at home with the difficult weather conditions at Rochester because her first athletic love is cross country skiing.
“I run some in the summer to keep in shape,” said Snyder, a 24-year-old biomedical engineering graduate student at UR. “But my main sport is cross country skiing.”
Snyder doesn't just go out for an occasional tour of the trails at her local ski resort. Sponsored by two ski equipment companies, she is one of the top female U.S. cross country skiers in the highly competitive Eastern circuit.
“I'm a member of the New England Nordic Ski Association's Regional Development Team,” she said. “I race in the big regional races in the Northeast and do a few of the national races every year. Last year I was the winner of the Craftsbury Marathon, a really big 50 kilometer ski race in Vermont. Just a couple of weeks ago I headed out to West Yellowstone (Montana) to race in the opening Super Tour races. In early January I'll be heading up to Alaska for a couple of weeks to do the U.S. Cross Country Skiing Nationals in Anchorage.”
So, how does an elite cross country skier mix her sport with running? Actually, the mix is fairly easy because cross country skiing is an activity that can provide greater cardiovascular benefits than running.
“While I've always run to some extent, my cross country ski training has helped me to get much faster,” she said. Evidence of that is her rain-soaked time of 21:14 at Rochester's Corporate Challenge, which brought her to the finish line less than a minute behind the winner. Now, that effort and the opportunity to run against the world's best corporate runners in a storied location a half a world away have her energized.
“I'm really excited to get the chance to race in South Africa and because of this I've increased the amount of running training that I've been doing,” she said. “I'm hoping to have a really fast race in Johannesburg and help UR score really high up in the Mixed team division.”
Given the world-class competition, that's a tall order, of course, but UR comes into the Championship off an impressive 13-minute victory at Rochester.
“The margin of almost 13 minutes is a little surprising,” said Heather Van Orden, who has been the Company Captain at UR for seven years, a span that has seen the team win the award for largest participation six years in a row and capture at least one team title the past five years.
Joining Snyder on the UR Mixed team will be Luke Mortensen, who finished in 18:40 in May's Corporate Challenge and, like Snyder, is a graduate student in biomedical engineering; Chris Hine, a graduate student in biochemistry and biophysics; and Christina Devries, a technical associate at the Center for Human Genetics and Molecular Pediatric Disease.
Completing Rochester's representation in South Africa will be long-time race stalwarts Corning, who won the Men's team title (see separate story on this page), and Women's winner Greece Central School District, with Danielle Boneberg, Amy Lembo, Kerry White, and Kristine Penrose.
With UR's success in winning titles at Rochester, the team has participated in recent Championships at New York. However, the UR runners are approaching the race in Johannesburg with a whole new level of excitement, in part because none of them has visited South Africa before.
"I thought traveling to New York City was great, but this is beyond anything I could imagine," said Devries, who started running in 2004 when a friend, Laura Bloedorn, wanted to get a team together for the Corporate Challenge. "We qualified for the Championship in New York City and I've been running ever since."
Snyder agreed. "It was exciting to travel to New York City and run down Park Avenue, but I never imagined getting the chance to race in Africa," she said.
Added Hine, a 4:22 miler who ran cross country and track for Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio : "I would have never thought running would get me to Johannesburg. I've traveled throughout the U.S. due to running and thought that to be a huge privilege ... but to go to South Africa is something of a once in a lifetime experience.
“I'm really looking forward to the race," he said. "Even though it will be about as competitive as the previous races in New York City, it will be much more challenging given the altitude and weather differences in going from Rochester, NY in the winter time to South Africa in their summer time ... so it will be a nice break from the snow and the cold! I would also like to see the different wild life in Africa.”
Snyder, likely to be the only elite cross country skier on the starting line in Africa, also wants to enjoy the cultural attractions of another country. But, she is also focused on the race itself.
"I think that our team has a really good chance of running well against any of the other teams," she said. "We're all very "A" personality types that are hard workers in our jobs as well as our sports. It will be a proud moment to represent the University of Rochester on the streets of Johannesburg."
||In a series of stories leading to the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship on March 4, teams from Rochester are profiled. Previous installments have profiled teams from Singapore, Chicago, Frankfurt, and Buffalo.