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Lancaster teacher, Praxair employee take titles at 35th annual Corporate Challenge

School may be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean the teachers are resting.

Mary Giza, an 11th grade chemistry teacher at Lancaster High School, won the women’s leg of the 35th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge at Delaware Park on Thursday in 20 minutes, 55 seconds. Patrick Moran of Praxair won the men’s side in 18 minutes, 40 seconds after the initial winner was disqualified for not being a full-time employee.

Giza, who hasn’t run a race in two years and said she had a cold earlier in the week, wasn’t expecting to win the race.

“It was not my goal,” Giza said. “I just wanted to run strong but I felt really strong in the race, so I just went for it.”

She knew she could win the race about three miles into the 3.5-mile run. She’s run the race before but took the last two years off due to the birth of her daughter and son.

“Very surprising,” Giza said about the victory. “It’s a good surprise.”

Giza used to run for the UB cross country team and served as team captain from 2007 to 2009.

Education proved to be the key factor on the women’s side as the second-place finisher was Jennifer Boerner, who works at Edukids – a daycare center that offer early childhood education and after-school programs. She finished in 21 minutes, 28 seconds.

Boerner said she felt tired from a busy running schedule and “exhausted” from work entering the race. Giza passed her around the two-and-a-half mile mark.

“I should have pushed it more,” Boerner said, “but I don’t think I would have got her.”

Second place was bittersweet for Boerner, especially because it’s something she had experienced before.

“I’m happy to get second,” she said. “I got second last year so maybe next year I’ll get first.”

On the men’s side, Craig Kaiser crossed the end line first in approximately 18 minutes, 23 seconds. The senior electrical engineering major at UB and former member of the Buffalo track team from Lancaster was disqualified, however, because only permanent employees who work a minimum of 25 hours a week can compete in the race. Kaiser interns at Danforth.

“Because Craig Kaiser of John W. Danforth is an intern and he doesn’t meet the minimum employment requirements we’ve had to disqualify him from tonight’s race,” Race Director Dan Loncto said in a release.

Therefore when Moran and Kevin Smith were pushing each other for second and third, they were actually going for first and second without knowing it. Smith, running for Avox Systems/Zodiac Aerospace, and Moran occasionally train with each other, which made the finish more exciting for the two.

Smith’s 18 minutes, 42 seconds finish was just two seconds behind Moran.

“It’s a pretty good competition,” Moran said. “We are always competing with times we want to beat.”

Moran finished fourth last year. He runs five to six times a week, with a combination of speed training and track, distance running. He felt some fatigue during the race however, which is why he couldn’t catch Kaiser.

“I think I got a little more winded than I anticipated early on in the race,” Moran said.

The race featured 12,375 participants from 396 companies – making it the fifth-most attended race in the 35-year history and the second largest since 2000. Only New York City (39 years) has hosted the event longer. The race is run in 13 cities around the world, including London.

Wegmans and Tops were the two most-represented companies with 545 and 472 participants, respectively. Ingram Micro (409), Kaleida Heath (321), HSBC (250), Moog Inc. (214), Erie County Medical Center (209) and Fidelis Care (204) were other companies with at least 200 runners.

J.P. Morgan donated a portion of the proceeds to Buffalo’s Kevin Guest House and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Kevin Guest House is a not-for-profit that has been providing temporary housing for families with loved ones in hospitals for 42 years. The idea began when Kevin Garvey’s family struggled to find affordable housing when their 13-year-old son was being treated at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Although Giza’s students will likely be impressed by their teacher’s accomplishment, she won’t be able to brag to them for a few months.

“I won’t see them until the fall,” she said. “Maybe they’ll see me in the paper.”