Rochester’s 30th running was long awaited by Corporate Challenge entrants

The smallest city by population (just over 200,000) in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series takes a back seat to no other metropolitan market when it comes to passion for the team road race.

So, when 2,976 entrants from 159 companies gathered Downtown for the start of the 30th running in Rochester, New York, and the first since June 4, 2019, there was a real buzz of excitement among businesses of all industry groups and sizes.

Take for example, Paychex.

A provider of human resource, payroll, and benefits outsourcing services, Paychex is one of Rochester’s most well-known employers, and a long-time believer in the value of the Corporate Challenge. It brought out 119 participants for the company’s 25th entry in the Corporate Challenge, including events at previous race venues Highland Park and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). But this was perhaps the most meaningful Corporate Challenge yet for Paychex, and it was evident on the 3.5-mile Downtown race course and at post-event partying within Frontier Field.

“We’re excited to come back together with our fellow employees and other members of the Rochester business community,” said Becky Cania, Manager, Employee & Corporate Communications, Paychex. “It’s a great way to reinforce our commitment to our employees’ well-being – physical through walking or running, social by getting together with their peers, and community by coming together as part of a larger Rochester community.”

All the Paychex participants wore special t-shirts sporting an American flag, to honor several members of its Veterans Focus Group, all military veterans or family members of veterans. It was a continuation of a Paychex tradition at the Corporate Challenge, one made even more meaningful from the race date being Flag Day and a return to normal post-pandemic.

“We saw lots of high-fives, hugs, and laughter from employees who haven’t seen each other outside of video screens,” Cania said, “not to mention welcoming our newer employees that may have never met many of their new coworkers. There’s nothing like food, fun, and fitness to bring people together!”

In addition to the 119 participants from Paychex, these businesses comprised the 10 largest entered teams on the night: Wegmans (204 entrants); L3Harris (90); City of Rochester (73); LaBella Associates (67); ESL Federal Credit Union (63); SUNY Brockport (60); Popli Design Group (56); MKS Instruments (56); and Bausch & Lomb (54).

Popli Design Group, an award-winning architectural, engineering, land surveying, and construction services firm, is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year and team captain Sarah LoPresti noted that her colleagues were eager to get back on the Corporate Challenge race course to celebrate.

“We wanted to continue the tradition of participation along with giving our firm the opportunity to get together outside of work both for socialization and for doing good in the Rochester community,” LoPresti said. “We’re excited to be involved again and brought our largest group ever with participants from our headquarters in Penfield and two offices outside of the Rochester area.”

Like so many other companies around the globe participating in Corporate Challenges this year, LoPresti noted that this was Popli’s first big event as a group in more than two years.

“It’s a great bonding event for the offices,” said LoPresti. “There have been so few opportunities since the beginning of the pandemic to get together, especially with co-workers from outside Rochester. We also have so many new employees joining the firm this year, so the Challenge is an opportunity for our seasoned employees to meet our new architects, engineers and surveyors!”

And those new employees at Popli were infused with pride when they learned of the official results.

Scott Loforte, representing Popli, won the men’s division with a terrific time of 17:15 (4:56 pace). Trisha Byler, now representing International Flavor & Fragrances, earned the women’s crown in 20:24 (5:50). It was Byler’s fourth consecutive Corporate Challenge victory, and she is four-for-four since the race moved Downtown from RIT in 2017.

Warm memories brought SUNY Brockport – an undergraduate state university approximately 20 miles from Rochester – back to the Downtown starting line. Team captain Jennifer Kegler registered a team of 96 at the last Corporate Challenge in 2019 and felt confident this year would be a good step back to normal. She was right.

“Like so many other organizations, we felt it was important to participate again this year as we are coming out of the pandemic and staff members are looking for ways to engage with each other on multiple fronts,” Kegler said. “Among the 60 people registered are a large number of first-timers and new employees – including our College President, Dr. Heidi Macpherson, who has always wanted to join the team, but scheduling had prevented it.”

And the 30th running in Rochester also brought some history. The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge for the first time here welcomed non-binary entrants. Those specific entrants are listed in the Series Leaderboard and are eligible to score in their company’s mixed team results.

All participants had their efforts celebrated by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, which donated on their behalf to Flower City Habitat for Humanity. Founded in 1984, Flower City Habitat for Humanity has built or removed 250 homes throughout the City of Rochester. It is now working with several partners to help alleviate the issue of vacant and abandoned properties across Monroe County.

In the last full year of racing, 2019, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series featured 251,299 entrants from 7,581 companies. This year, the Series will include three expansion markets – Buenos Aires, Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia. Now in its 46th year and back on its feet after COVID, the Corporate Challenge is ready to spread its appeal wider than ever before.

It’s a quick turnaround for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series as it heads just 60 or so miles west on Route 90 for the 40th running of our Buffalo event on Thursday, June 16.