Akhnaten Spencer-El joined the Columbia fencing coaching staff in September of 2013.
Spencer-El is a three-time U.S. Junior Sabre National Champion, a two-time Senior National Sabre Champion (1999, 2000) and was formerly ranked the No. 1 Junior Sabre fencer in the world (1998). He represented the United States in the 2000 Olympics and served as the United States Women's National Team Saber Coach for the 2011 Pan-American Games and served as a coach for the United States in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
"Akhi will provide great leadership for our extremely strong sabre program," stated head coach Michael Aufrichtig. "He will bring even more experience to our highly accomplished coaching staff."
Spencer-El helped lead Columbia to its second-straight NCAA Championship title in 2016 as both Geoffrey Loss (second team) and Calving Liang (honorable mention) of the men's sabre team and Lena Johnson (honorable mention) of the women's sabre team came home with All-America honors.
The 2016 squad also earned a share of the Ivy League Championship title as the Lions forced a three-way tie for first at the 2016 Ivy League Round-Robins. Rookie Calvin Liang and junior Michael Costin of the men's sabre squad each earned first team All-Ivy honors after taking second and third, respectively while senior Geoffrey Loss picked up second team accolades with a fourth-place finish. On the women's side, rookie Ilana Solomon was named second team All-Ivy after finishing tied for sixth in the event. Earlier in the year, Solomon was named the CollegeFencing360.com National Rookie of the Week on January 22 following a dominating 17-1 performance with a +50 touch differential at the Penn State Invitational (Jan. 16).
In his second season with the Lions, the men’s and women’s fencing program captured the 2015 NCAA National Championship, the 14th title in program history and the first since 1993. For the first time in both program and Ivy League history, the men’s and women’s teams were ranked No. 1 simultaneously, a feat that had not been accomplished by any program since 2012. At the NCAA Championship, Margaret Lu earned the women’s foil runner up, Jake Hoyle captured the men’s epee championship, and Brian Ro was the men’s epee bronze medalist. Additionally, nine Lions garnered All-American honors, the most for the program since 2007.
Columbia saw the men’s team hoist the Ivy League trophy in 2013-14 as the Lions’ men finished first at the Round-Robins and 29-3 overall, while the women posted a third place showing against Ancient Eight foes and finished 24-3 overall. For their efforts agains the Ivies, six men and three women garnered All-Ivy League status.
Spencer-El's first campaign also saw the men’s squad atop the national rankings for the first time in program history. At NCAAs, Columbia finished seventh for the second consecutive year and four Lions picked up All-American honors.
A New York City native, Spencer-El is well connected both locally and internationally. Most recently, he spent the last five years as a master coach at the Fencers Club and the last eight years assistant coaching at the Peter Westbrook Foundation.
In fact, the Peter Westbrook Foundation was where it all began for Spencer-El when he realized his passion for fencing at the age of 13.
From early on, Spencer-El knew he wanted to one day become a coach. He began his coaching career in 2003 when he initiated the Young Elites of Houston fencing program, a non-profit organization designed for inner city children.
In 2009, Spencer-El came one step closer to his goal when he earned his Maestro's degree from Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary.
Throughout his coaching years, Spencer-El has coached numerous elite fencers, including Ibtihaj Muhammed, the 2009 Women?s National Sabre Champion, Dan Bak, the 2009 NCAA Team Champion, and Adrian Bak, the 2009 Junior National Team Champion.
Spencer-El currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and two children.