Justin Nunez, a former Columbia University football player in his second year at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., earned the unofficial title of Wall Street’s best athlete by winning a charity decathlon held at his alma mater.
Nunez, 27, finished atop a field of almost 100 traders, bankers and financial advisers in the 10-event competition, which benefits the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Kyle VanFleet, a former Georgetown University fullback who also works at Goldman Sachs, was runner-up in the competition that took place over the weekend.
Nunez finished with 7,095 points -- 27 ahead of VanFleet and 41 better than Brad Bagdis of Knight Capital Group -- to improve on his third-place showing at the 2010 Wall Street Decathlon. Nunez’s victory came at Columbia’s Wien Stadium on the northern tip of Manhattan, where he played four years at defensive back for the Lions.
“To come back and actually have a chance to compete again on my home turf felt great,” Nunez, who works in the investment management division at Goldman Sachs, said in a telephone interview. “It brings back a lot of good memories.”
Nunez, cheered by family, college friends, his girlfriend and colleagues from Goldman Sachs, said his experience last year helped him win this time around.
“Last year I didn’t really know what to expect, I didn’t know what to focus on, how to rest properly,” he said. “Having that experience really helped me. I ate a lot more throughout the day and kept my energy levels high. I wouldn’t get too worked up before any event and approached each event in its own right.”
The competition featured runs at three distances -- 40 yards, 400 meters and 800 meters. That was the extent of its similarity to the Olympic decathlon. Pull-ups, a football throw, an agility drill, rowing, vertical jump and bench press also were part of the one-day contest.
Tom McGuirk, the managing director of HighTower Advisors in Menlo Park, California, traveled to New York for the competition and took top honors in the executive division, finishing with 5,686 points. McGuirk, 40, competed in the 400-meter hurdles for Ireland in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
This was the third Wall Street Decathlon and the first to crown a top executive as well as age-group winners.
Jay McCareins, a former Princeton University defensive back and energy analyst for George Weiss Associates Inc. hedge fund, won the 20-to-29 age category.
Nunez, VanFleet and Bagdis are all under 30, yet were ineligible as they took the top three spots in the overall standings.
Clinton Biondo of Fir Tree Partners took honors in the 30-39 category. Defending champion Chris Schlack of Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit wasn’t able to participate because of health issues, while 2009 winner Kyle Peterson of New Mountain Capital finished 10th.
This year’s decathlon raised an estimated $500,000 for patient care and cancer research at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, according to event co-founder Dave Maloney. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, was among 11 corporate sponsors.
Nunez said he’d wake up at 5:30 a.m. and spend between 60 and 90 minutes at the gym four to five days a week before work as part of his training for the competition. Now that he has a trophy that declares him Wall Street’s best athlete, Nunez is already thinking about defending his title in 2012.
“I told my girlfriend I was going to take this week off and then get right back in the gym and start training again,” Nunez said. “If anybody approaches it the way I did after not winning last year -- it just made me more hungry. If I want to defend my title, I have to work just as hard if not harder.”