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M&T’s Keenan breaks through at Corporate Challenge

Twice, David Keenan finished as the runner-up at Buffalo’s J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.

This time, he took the win.

The 35-year-old, who works for M&T Bank, finished the 3.5-mile course at Delaware Park in 18:05 to take the men’s title.

“Finally broke through to win the race, which is nice,” Keenan said. “I just wanted to get out, get in a groove, see who was around. I wanted to run for the win. Finishing second a couple years in a row, I wanted to be in a position to win.

“It’s something I always look forward to. I work all spring to get into shape, and it’s a nice race to kick the summer off on a good note. I used to do a lot the last couple years. This year I’m running sparingly but still training and getting out with my buddies.”

Technically Keenan was the second runner to cross the line, but race rules dictate that the winner be a full-time employee, which disqualified the apparent winner.

On the women’s side, Kimberly Mills, 25, who works out of the Batavia office for Freed Maxick, took the win. She finished in 21:22.

It was her first time running the Corporate Challenge, a course she covered with little specific training after running the Buffalo Marathon at the end of May.

“I haven’t done any speed work, and my legs were a little flat,” Mills said. “I still have a strong base, and I think that carried me. My plan was to sit back a little more. Then when I hit the first mile I was a lot faster than I wanted to be.”

Mills said she was running around a 5:30 to 5:40 pace, a shock to her system after running a 7:30 pace for the Buffalo Marathon.

“I backed off a little the second mile and just hung on as much as I could that last mile,” she said. “But it’s such a big race, there’s so many people to carry you along when it gets tough.”

Rounding out the top five for the men were: Ridge Robinson (Bryant & Stratton) 18:27; Kevin Smith (Avox/Zodiac Aerospace) 18:39; Ryan O’Connor (Northwest Mutual) 18:57; Jay List (Diamond Cutters of WNY) 18:57.

The top five for the women were: Mills; Kelsey Gratien (Univera) 21:36; Jenny Koeppel (Amherst Central Schools) 21:53; Amy Fakterowitz (Amherst Central Schools) 22:38; Jill Kosinski (Excelsior Orthopedic) 23:09.

While there are serious runners vying for a win, the event has become a rite of summer in Western New York, attracting companies of various sizes and athletes of all shapes, sizes and speeds.

• Rosanne Panzica was at Delaware Park before 4 p.m. setting up the Power Drive Inc. tent for the 18 runners of the industrial company.

“I myself run once a year,” Panzica said with a laugh. “I do other things, but I run once a year.”

“We have a lot who do it every year,” added Kristin Linn of PDI. “It’s been a tradition for people in the company for the five years we’ve been doing it, and everyone has a nice time. It’s a nice camaraderie builder and a nice social event to be able to have.”

PDI uses the event toward its company wellness program.

• Also hitting the health and wellness theme was Tops Markets, which had 509 participants.

“It’s part of our health message as well,” said Tops Markets team captain Andy Brocato. “We do a variety of things throughout the year – we track steps, we do miles, we have other health initiatives - so this becomes a great addition to that.”

This marked the 20th year of Tops Markets’ participation, bringing together employees across the company structure.

“With over 500 associates tonight, we’ve got them from the stores, from headquarters, the warehouse,” Brocato said. “They’re from all over the place, and it’s a great time to connect with friendships.”

• The social aspect is the biggest draw of the evening, especially the food, and particularly for hospitality companies.

Delaware North’s 88 runners were treated to quite a spread.

“We have our culinary team from Ralph Wilson Stadium, and they put on a top-rate spread every year,” said Delaware North team captain Charlie Roberts. “Salmon, grilled chicken, salads, fruit, dessert and then your typical summertime staples like hot dogs and hamburgers. Each year seems to get better.”

email: amoritz@buffnews.com