Wall Street Seeks Top Female Athlete to Join Men’s Titleholder

The search for the best athlete on Wall Street is beginning again, with an official women’s division for the first time.

Registration for the RBC Decathlon, a charity event that raised more than $1.3 million for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York last year, opened today through the event’s website. As many as 150 traders, bankers and financial advisers will test their speed, strength and agility in the 10-event competition, which is scheduled for July 27 at Columbia University’s Wien Stadium in Manhattan.

Mark Rubin, a former Penn State University safety who tried out for National Football League teams before joining Barclays Plc. in fixed-income futures sales, will defend his overall title. There are also age-group and executive winners, a team competition and a separate division to crown the best female athlete on Wall Street.

“Seeing the growth aspect of it continue this year with the women’s division, that’s what the event is really about, getting more and more people involved every year,” Rubin, 27, said in a telephone interview.

Vito Sperduto, a former Harvard University rugby player who heads U.S. Mergers & Acquisitions at RBC Capital Markets, will be competing again in the men’s over-40 division after raising more than $72,000 in donations last year. As the title sponsor, RBC last year piloted a program in which nine of its female employees competed in all 10 disciplines.

“When we looked at sponsoring the event, one of the things we worked with the organizers on was specifically involving women,” Sperduto, 43, said in a telephone interview. “It’s going to be a broader event, with a big focus in terms of recruiting more women athletes for the competition.”

‘Enthusiasm, Anxiety’

Terri Endicott, a director in RBC’s municipal finance department, participated in the pilot program and said she’s excited to show women on Wall Street are just as competitive as their male counterparts. A former gymnast who’s also currently works as a spinning instructor, Endicott registered for the competition this morning and will be traveling from Cincinnati for the event in July.

“It was nice to see we can be part of this wonderful cause and be able to really step in and compete with our peers of the opposite sex,” Endicott, 43, said in a telephone interview. “The spirit of the day -- the energy, the enthusiasm, the anxiety -- it’s incredible.”

Also new this year is the Wall Street Mile. That event will be held July 26, the day before the decathlon, with participants running in heats around the Wien Stadium track on the northern tip of Manhattan.

Mile Run

“People have a chance to run 5Ks or 10Ks for various charity events, but rarely do you get a chance to run a mile on a track in a competitive situation,” decathlon co-founder Dave Maloney said in a telephone interview. “It’s an opportunity to give more people a chance to participate and donate. Not everyone has time to commit to training for all 10 events.”

There are three running events in the RBC Decathlon, at distances of 40 yards, 400 meters and 800 meters.

Also in the one-day competition are pull-ups, a football throw, an agility drill, rowing, vertical jump, bench press and dips -- a triceps exercise using one’s own weight.

“We saw last year we had guys who were All-Americans in college and do triathlons and marathons now,” said Rubin, who pulled out his win last year in the final event. “It’s definitely a top-tier athletic event with people who are constantly training and working out. It’s always fun to see what you can do against high-level competition.”

Award Winners

Awards are presented to the top three finishers in the men’s and women’s divisions, as well as the top executive performer, the winners in three age groups (under 30, 30-39 and over 40), the top fundraiser and the top team.

Brian Kuritzky, a 26-year-old security analyst at the Goldman Sachs Group and a former Cornell University soccer player, was last year’s top individual fundraiser with over $90,000 in pledges.

Fundraising is also driven by so-called charity bets, with competitors generating donations by surpassing pre-event goals or benchmarks. Jason Price, a former All-American sprinter at the University of Southern California and a prime brokerage sales analyst for JPMorgan Chase & Co., last year triggered a $100,000 donation for any competitor who broke the event record in the 400 meters.

Athletic Prowess

RBC’s Sperduto, who played rugby for three years at Harvard before graduating in 1991, raised an additional $13,000 in donations from family, friends, colleagues and clients by bettering his targeted 18 bench-press repetitions. He finished with 22 at 175 pounds.

“Since college, I’ve been in banking for 22 years and sitting at a desk serving clients doesn’t necessarily bode well for your athletic prowess,” Sperduto said. “The goal for me is to exceed all the events I did last year.”

All contributions go to pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer and participants are required to raise a minimum of $3,000 in donations. Registration, underway at thedecathlon.org, is $275.

Competitors have six months to prepare for the decathlon and organizers are incorporating a CrossFit training program this year that includes monthly “skill sessions” taught by professional athletes, coaches and former Olympians.

Once a month during the training period, participants will be able to compete in one or two decathlon events and have a chance to collect charity bets from head-to-head matchups. It’s an opportunity to boost competition and friendly rivalries, organizers said.

“When you get out there, you’re competing against everyone,” Sperduto said. “But just given the cause and having over 100 people out there who are colleagues from around Wall Street, there’s a lot of incredible camaraderie.”

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