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Huben, Robinson win Corporate Challenge titles

Conventional wisdom says that long periods of training are needed in athletics before becoming a champion.

Then there's the  case of Jacquie Huben - "overnight sensation."

"I had never done a road race before," she said after winning the women's race in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge on Thursday night.

Huben, who works for McGuire Development Company, finished in a time of 21 minutes, 45 seconds for the 3.5-mile distance. She was joined in the winner's circle by Ridge Robinson of Bryant and Stratton College, who came with a time of 18:05.

In fairness, the 22-year-old Huben has done plenty of running in her life. It just wasn't done on roads.

"I ran cross-country and track in high school" for Clarence "and in college," she said. "I graduated from Geneseo last year."

Huben showed what she could do about a year ago, as she won the NCAA Division III championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. There were no hurdles on the race course Thursday, but she won the race by 33 seconds.

"I didn't know what to expect," Huben said. "I started out a little fast. I just tried to join in with a big pack of guys and hang there as long as I could and see what I had."

As you might expect, the newcomer was enthusiastic about road racing after taking home a trophy for winning.

"I loved it actually," she said. "It was a lot of fun. It was good to have a mixed-gender race, so I'd always have someone ahead of me. Yeah, now I want to do more of it."

Huben works in the palliative care program at the Garden Gate Health Care Facility for McGuire Development. The results of Thursday's race may surprise some of her co-workers.

"I don't think many people know I run, actually," she said.

Mary Giza finished in second place. The representative of the Lancaster Central School District was hardly disappointed with earning the runner-up spot.

"It's completely unexpected, so I'll take it," she said. "I got trapped early in the race, and it was hard to get up to the lead group."

One of the odd points of the Corporate Challenge is that no one is too sure who might show up in a given year, depending on if a particular company decided to enter the race.

"It's a little different, and I think that keeps everyone relaxed," Giza said.

Jillian Kosinski of Excelsior Orthopaedics joined the crowd of satisfied runners with her third-place showing (22:44).

"Better than I thought," she said about her performance. "It went pretty well for me until the last mile, when the humidity caught up with me a bit."

Amy Fakterowitz of Amherst Central Schools may have set an odd record by running two different Corporate Challenges on two different continents in a little more than two days. She was part of a team that took part in the overall championship on Tuesday in Frankfurt, Germany. Fakterowitz finished Thursday's race in 13th place with a time of 24:15.

In the men's race, the victory was a step up for Robinson after a second-place showing in 2016.

"Last year I told them at work that I was going to win it for Bryant and Stratton, and I got second overall," he said. "They never let me live it down, but they were all super-supportive this whole year.

"They have been awesome to me. The work schedule there allows me to do this."

Robinson almost predicted his time to the second, as he ran away from the field to win by a minute and three seconds.

"I put myself down for 18-flat," he said. "When I do that, I stick to it. It was real close.

"I was super-nervous. ... When I got to the line I was a nervous wreck. I went out too fast, but I held tough and made it through the race."

Robinson is a former runner for Ohio University and did some coaching at Buffalo State before moving into admissions.

Robert Swick of Watts Architecture, who finished in the runner-up spot at 19:08, can attest to Robinson's dominance.

"It seemed like he had a good day - I never saw him," Swick said with a laugh. "He had a good run. I think everyone went out a little too fast because it's all downhill."

Ryan Bierl of Moog figured he wouldn't be able to catch Robinson on this day, but still turned in a time of 19:28 to take third place.

"I knew he was racing, and I said, 'I'm not going to even try to catch him,' " Bierl said. "He just ran a sub-16-minute 5K a while ago. I don't do that well in night races. It wasn't my best, but I'm happy with it.

The winners of the team competitions (men's, women's and mixed) will be announced following a check of the eligibility of the runners, who must be full-time employees.

More than 12,000 runners and walkers took part in the 37th annual event, which begins and ends in the Delaware Park area. Part of the proceeds of the event will be donated to the Strong Community Schools initiative of the Buffalo Public Schools system under the New Education Bargain with Students and Parents.

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