Wall Street Top Athlete Search Gets Under Way With Signups for Decathlon

The search for Wall Street’s best all-around athlete is under way.

The Decathlon, a 10-event charity competition scheduled for Oct. 22 at Columbia University in New York, opened full registration this morning on its website.

Jay McCareins, who played football at Princeton University and had a brief stint with the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, will be among the traders, bankers and financial advisers vying for the unofficial title of Wall Street’s top athlete while raising money for New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

“In past athletic endeavors, I’ve always found myself to be one of the top-tier athletes, so I have expectations,” McCareins, in his fourth year as an energy analyst for the George Weiss Associates Inc. hedge fund, said in a telephone interview. “But being in a field where I don’t know the competitors and in some events I don’t feel comfortable with, it’s going to make it a little more difficult for me to be as confident as I usually would be.”

McCareins, 28, pre-registered for the Decathlon along with about a dozen other select competitors including the event’s past two champions, a former Ivy League shot-put champion, an All-American wrestler from Harvard University and a former soccer captain at Villanova University.

Organizers said there’s room for 200 participants this year and awards will be presented to the top executive, top fund- raiser and winners in various age groups.

Age, Performance

“We have a greater diversity within the field of competitors,” Decathlon co-founder Dave Maloney, a former financial adviser at Morgan Stanley, said in a telephone interview. “We want to be able to recognize an executive who is putting on a heck of an athletic performance and not compare that to the young analyst who’s 20 years his junior.”

The competition features runs at three distances -- 40 yards, 400 meters and 800 meters. That’s where its similarity to the Olympic decathlon ends.

Pull-ups, a football throw, an agility drill, rowing, vertical jump and bench press are also part of the one-day contest at Columbia University’s Wien Stadium.

McCareins, whose older brother Justin spent four of his eight NFL seasons with the New York Jets as a wide receiver, said he’s looking forward to the variety of events. The younger McCareins was a cornerback at Princeton and led the nation with nine interceptions as a senior in 2005.

Rowing Novice

“I can still throw a football reasonably well, but I’ve never really rowed before, so a 500-meter row is going to be a new challenge,” said McCareins, who lives in White Plains, New York, with his wife, Nicole, and 5-month-old daughter, Jayden. “That’s part of the excitement. You’re doing things for a very good cause, but it’s another way to find a new motivation to train while I have to worry about work and a family.”

The competition came down to the final event in 2010, when Chris Schlack, an analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co., fought through a stomach virus to win the title. Schlack said he spent time as a personal trainer and kick-boxing teacher at a gym in Hoboken, New Jersey, outside his job in the alternate investments group for Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit.

Schlack will defend his title, and 2009 winner Kyle Peterson, 25, an associate at Sageview Capital LP, is also in the field. Justin Nunez, 27, of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) played football at Columbia and returns to his alma mater after finishing third last year.

Ivy Champion

Gerald Donini, 47, who is head of equities and trading in the Americas for Barclays Capital, is participating for the first time. A member of the company’s six-member executive board, Donini was an Ivy League shot-put champion at Brown University and still holds the school record in the event.

Other competitors include Brian Williams, 33, of Jefferies Group Inc. (JEF), who was Villanova’s soccer captain in 2000; Connor Hackett, 23, of Collins Stewart Plc (CLST), who last year was football captain at St. Lawrence University; and Max Meltzer, 26, of the Meltzer Group, who finished eighth at the college wrestling championships for Harvard in 2007.

Prospective competitors must work in the financial services industry and raise a minimum of $3,000 in donations. The event raised $225,000 last year.

Donors can promise a fixed amount per repetition -- $10 per pull-up, for example -- and the Decathlon also features performance-based pledging. Organizers said the second option allows donors to “wager” on a competitor’s performance, harnessing Wall Street’s trading culture.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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