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Company Teams Put Best Feet Forward : Spirit Soars Among Corporate Runners Who Compete Fiercely on Field of Honor

June 14, 1985|LYNN SMITH | Times Staff Writer

"When you dream, you'll dream of being an executive . . . . You know what those executives dream about out there behind their desks Moonpie? They dream they're great rollerballers."

--Mr. Bartholomew

in the movie "Rollerball"

Cathie Ritter just hadn't understood.

Wednesday, the 33-year-old drafting manager from Orange--in faded jeans and lilac running shoes--loped across a finish line in the William R. Mason Regional Park in Irvine. A half-hour behind the winner, Ritter placed last in the 3.5-mile Manufacturers Hanover Corporate Challenge, a road race for company teams. "I thought it would be a lot of people walking fast," said Ritter, a non-athlete and smoker who had never run before. "Then I saw all these runners were serious!"

In all, the race--known to veteran corporate runners as "the Manny Hanny"--drew about 1,100 lawyers, engineers, grocers, manufacturers, retailers, and builders, presidents, vice presidents, guards and clerks from 97 companies in San Diego, Riverside and Valencia as well as Los Angeles and Orange County. Rockwell International had imported two out-of-state runners from Washington and Colorado.

Corporate running has become institutionalized in recent years, with big team races sponsored by Manufacturer's Hanover Trust, a New York-based bank, and Xerox Corp. Smaller races are also held--such as Union Bank's Heart of the City Run June 26 in Los Angeles. A U.S. Corporate Track Assn, formed last year, will hold its first national meet in July at UCLA.

Spirit Runs High

Corporate team spirit runs as high as any high school playoff game. "We're number one!" yelled a Wang runner Wednesday in a T-shirt with the letters IBM inside a red circle with a line through it.

Before the race, Dana Metcheck, a product manager for Avery International, the adhesive label manufacturer, led 20 runners--all in matching maroon shorts and singlets--in stretching exercises as "You're Out of Touch" blared over the loudspeakers. "We're a cohesive group," she explained.

Other competitors warmed up near company banners wearing singlets, T-shirts and visors with logos and slogans for their firms. "The best selling sponge isn't found in housewares," read the pale blue T-shirt for the team from VLI Corp. in Irvine, manufacturers of Today, the contraceptive sponge. "Buns on the run," read the Safeway T-shirt. On another, simple lines set off the tasteful message: "The Law Firm of Rutan and Tucker."

Mycomp Technologies, a video distribution equipment firm in Costa Mesa offered this obscure advertisement: "Between source and finished dub, the ultimate in control."

Employees from Calcomp, Security Pacific Bank and the IRS gathered for team pictures, some striking fierce victory poses.

Running particularly for the glory of their companies were rivals Hughes and Rockwell. In 1983, Rockwell's men's team won the national Manufacturers Hanover championship held in New York, and swept the field--winning first in the men's, women's and co-ed teams divisions--in the Los Angeles regional race. Last year, the team also won the Los Angeles event and finished second to Nike in the nationals.

"We're here to make that trip to New York," said Catherine Benedict, a production control planner for Hughes, referring to the winner's prize: a trip to the national championships to be held in November on Park Avenue. Hughes runners trained in company workouts to build team spirit, she said.

Following the race--which jammed traffic temporarily on University Drive--the victor was Steve Bishop, a 25-year-old engineer in Rockwell's laser systems group, with a time of 16:45. A Hughes runner, Mark Mesler, came in second at 17:25. But six more Rockwell runners finished in the top 16, and Kathy Thomas from Rockwell took first place for women in 20:02.

Steven Badolato, 45, from Corona del Mar, took first in the Chief Executive Officer category with a time of 21.13. He is executive director of the World Trade Assn. of Orange County in Santa Ana.

Prizes Given

Prizes were also given for the fastest men's, women's and co-ed teams. Under the race rules, the company team captain selects runners to make up the teams following the race. The teams with the fastest cumulative times win. (Winners in one regional challenge are disqualified from winning in another regional challenge.)

While Rockwell's men's team won, Hughes' women's and co-ed teams took first.

Winning the men's team involved a complex strategy for Gil Armour, a Rockwell project engineer and captain of the Rockwell long-distance running team. His goal was to form a "medium strong" men's team which would beat Hughes but leave some of the faster runners to qualify for a winning team following the Los Angeles race in September. Using a spotter to time the Hughes runners, Armour spent an hour after the race, comparing times and computing which Rockwell runners should be used to beat Hughes then and which should be saved for Los Angeles.

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