The 35th running of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge produced the event’s second-largest crowd – 8,244 entrants from 307 companies.  And a throng like that wasn’t going to be put off by cool temperatures and steady rain.

After braving start-to-finish precipitation and cool breezes off Lake Onondaga, the camaraderie in the post-race company tents was greater than ever.

“This is perfect running weather,” enthused Syracuse University’s Sascha Scott, who easily qualifies as an expert.  She has won the women’s individual title three times, including in this race. 

Scott crossed the Onondaga Lake Parkway finish line in 20:31, with the other female medalists being Jordyn Naylon of SUNY Cortland (21:06) and Tina Hunt of HealthFitness (22:05).  That was the exact same top three finish as 2016, when Scott ran 21:20, Naylon 21:53 and Hunt 22:01.

Lee Berube of Upstate Medical University also successfully defended his title.  Berube broke the men’s tape in 17:34, two ticks better than his 2016 winning effort.  He held off a strong challenge from 2016 runner-up Andrew Dionne of Liverpool Central Schools (17:41).  Matt Johnson from Cryomech, Inc. was third in 17:47.

Scott also won here in 2014 and her excellence on the course is matched by her employer’s commitment to workplace fitness.  Syracuse University annually has one of the largest teams in the event and this year no exception.  The Orange brought 160.

“We have a long legacy of participation, mixed with a strong commitment to employee wellness,” said Syracuse University company captain John Beecher. “These factors, coupled with great support from the University, lead to large participation numbers, even for a campus that slows down a little in the summer.

“Honestly,” Beecher continued, “there is much anticipation on campus even before the call for entries goes out.  But once it does, it is a total team effort.  Employees across all areas of the university rally together to build our team.”

Wegmans Food Markets had the largest team, with a whopping 443 of its Central New York employees.  Its grocery rival, Tops Markets, was second with 231.  In large part due to their efforts, the turnout nearly matched the Syracuse Corporate Challenge all-time attendance record of 8,564 in 2014.

Crouse Health company captain Chrissy Giaprakis fielded 204 entries – good for the third largest company – and she attributed that success to Crouse’s Simply Well initiative.

“Our employees have come to recognize Simply Well as opportunities to have fun and be social, in a health-focused way,” said Giaprakis. “The Corporate Challenge is promoted through Simply Well and is one of the most well-attended Crouse wellness events.”

Giaprakis was asked why the Corporate Challenge has taken such a strong hold at Crouse.

“Employees acknowledge the value in participating – whether it be for competitive, fun or social reasons,” Giaprakis said. “Crouse as an organization supports the event because it helps reinforce that physical activity can be fun and it brings people together.  Employees from diverse departments, backgrounds and skill levels get together on common ground for an enjoyable evening.”

And, in some cases, an even of sartorial splendor.  Most companies design their own t-shirts, and few are as creative as those designed by Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists (SOS).

“Not only do we have the best employees caring for our patients, we have many creative employees who come up with T-shirt ideas,” said SOS company captain Nicole Chidsey, who registered 141 colleagues. “This year, we had a custom design drawn by our own Bill Switzer.  It is unique and extremely detailed.”

J.P. Morgan, in celebration of the Corporate Challenge, donated to Huntington Family Centers (HFC).  Since 1919, HFC has provided diverse, year-round programming in Youth, Family and Adult Services to help individuals develop and grow to their fullest potential.  The J.P. Morgan donation will specifically be targeted for the near west side of Syracuse, with HFC providing free, full-day summer camp opportunities for youth and Pre-K children; senior citizens weekday socialization and educational opportunities, including transportation and meals; assistance to individuals and families struggling to meet basic needs with access to a food pantry; and a children’s free clothing exchange room.

Mary Lou Sayles, Executive Director, represented Huntington Family Centers at the event, being the first to greet Berube and Scott in their moment of triumph, finish-line tape in hand.

The 2017 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series fuels up for a 300-mile drive east via the New York State Thruway and the Massachusetts Turnpike before arriving for the 34th running of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Boston on Thursday, June 8.