Welcome to our series on Student-Athlete Impact! Throughout the month of February, you will be hearing from some of our student-athletes as they tell their stories of their time here at Columbia. First up is fencing's Katie Angen.

Fencing is an individual sport, and though I draw strength from the support of my team, ultimately, when you’re in a bout, you’re on your own up there.

The pressure can be intense, and as captain, I have a responsibility to maintain my composure and confidence, and to contribute points for the team to win. Working with Dr. Brent Walker, Associate Athletics Director for Championship Performance, has been game-changing, and I have generous gifts from alumni, parents, and friends to thank for that.

Brent taught me about anchoring. It’s a focus tactic that allows you to reset your mind, to mentally take yourself back to a situation that you’ve successfully practiced before. For example, I needed anchoring in a recent meet against Yale. The score was 13 – 13 and we needed one more bout to win. My match was tied at four, and the next point would win it. Adding to the pressure? It was my first time fencing foil in a meet…I usually fence epee, but we were down three foil fencers who were competing in a World Cup in Katowice, Poland.

I did my anchoring trick—for me, it’s tapping the side of my thigh—and I was back in practice, in a four-four situation that I’ve rehearsed so many times. Immediately, I felt comfortable and confident that I was going to win.

I did win that bout, and I’ve drawn on anchoring outside of fencing, too. I’m an architecture major and a senior, which means lots of critiques (where I present my work and then receive feedback from faculty and peers) and job interviews. These are similarly high-pressure situations, but because of my Columbia Athletics training, I can trust in my abilities and my preparation.

I’ve visited a lot of other schools over my four years as a collegiate fencer. They all have their selling points, but what I don’t see is the holistic approach that we get at Columbia…the mental, emotional, and psychological preparation; the academic and career resources; the wellness and nutritional education. 

Thank you for providing student-athletes like me with incredible support that we don’t have to leave behind when we graduate. Everything I’ve gained here, I can take with me and draw on for the rest of my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful.