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Merrill Lynch’s Schlack Wins Title of Wall Street’s Top Athlete

Decathlon winner Chris Schlack
Chris Schalck, a second-year analyst from Merrill Lynch & Co., holds the trophy after winning the charity decathlon. Source: The Decathlon.org via Bloomberg

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Chris Schlack, a second-year analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co., fought through a stomach virus to claim the unofficial title of Wall Street’s best athlete at a charity decathlon in New York.

The 24-year-old Schlack finished atop a field of 25 traders, bankers and advisers yesterday to win the 10-event competition, which benefits Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Foundation to fund cancer research.

Schlack, whose grandmother died of ovarian cancer in February, finished with 7,514 total points, 38 ahead of runner-up Jason Tufo of Virtu Financial Services Inc. Justin Nunez of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was third.

“I battled nausea, headaches and being dehydrated to win against a very competitive field,” Schlack said in a telephone interview from his apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. “That makes me more proud than anything.”

While the competition featured runs at three different distances, that’s where its similarity to the Olympic decathlon ended. Pull-ups, a football throw, an agility drill and bench press also were part of the one-day contest at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, Long Island.

The title was decided in the final event -- the bodyweight bench press -- where Tufo, 30, vaulted to second place with a competition-best 33 repetitions. He just missed catching Schlack, who spends time as a personal trainer and kick-boxing teacher at a gym in Hoboken when he isn’t working as an analyst in the alternate investments group for Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit.

‘Two Reps Away’

“He was one or two reps away from the title,” Decathlon co-organizer Dave Maloney said of Tufo in a telephone interview. “It was that close.”

Schlack, a graduate of Seton Hall University, wasn’t sure at the start of the day if he’d be in the competition. After going out to dinner the night before, he got sick at midnight and was barely able to sleep before the event.

Schlack said the sickness forced him off the bus to the Decathlon, yet he decided to return and compete, if only to support the cause. Schlack said he thought of his grandmother, who beat ovarian cancer seven years ago only to have the disease return and claim her life on Valentine’s Day this year.

“As the day went on, I felt really nauseous, but in the competition the adrenaline goes and you kind of get over it,” Schlack said. “So I fought through it. Looking back, I think it’s kind of symbolic of how cancer survivors never say quit and fight all the obstacles.”

Raising Funds

LiveStrong is the organization founded by Armstrong, who won a record seven Tour de France cycling races after recovering from cancer. It has raised more than $325 million to help people with cancer since its inception in 1997.

The American Cancer Society projects that 569,490 people in the U.S. will die of cancer this year.

“My grandmother is a lady that our whole family owes a lot to,” Schlack said. “I wouldn’t have gone to college if it wasn’t for her helping co-sign my loans. (She) was a little more motivation for me. I felt like complete garbage, but knowing what she went through it wasn’t a lot of effort to exert myself and overcome that.”

Kyle Peterson, the 2009 Decathlon champion and an associate at Sage View Capital LP, finished fifth this year.

Max Meltzer of Merrill Lynch, a former All-American wrestler at Harvard University, placed fourth behind Goldman Sachs’s Nunez, who played football at Columbia University.

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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