Athletics One of the many advantages that students value about their Barnard experience is the opportunity to compete in NCAA Division I Athletics through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium. Barnard is the only college for women to offer Division I athletics.
Anne Cebula ’20 reacts to her NCAA championship win.Our interview with Anne Cebula ’20 is the newest installment in an ongoing scholar-athlete series. On March 24, 2019, Anne, who is a member of the Fencing team (epee squad), became Barnard’s first student-athlete to win an NCAA Championship title in the 35 years since the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium was established. She hails from Brooklyn and is a neuroscience and behavior major.
What was it like winning the individual NCAA Championship title and becoming Barnard’s first-ever student-athlete to do so?
It is absolutely surreal; the weight of the win still hasn’t hit me yet.
I went into this competition with the priority of nailing as many wins as possible for my team. After a rough start to my first day, I was devastated. However, instead of letting myself spiral any further, my teammates pulled me aside and told me to just fence like myself and to enjoy the moment — not to crank out wins or stress myself any further. For the remainder of the tournament I did just that, and it wasn’t until the very end (where I was quite literally packing up to leave) that I found out I made the semifinal rounds of the competition.
I went into those final rounds maintaining my revised mentality, clung onto whatever physical and mental strength I had left in me, and genuinely had fun in the process. I’m honored to be a part of history, but I’m more excited at the thought of the future — not just my own, but of what will grow out of the unique relationship that defines the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium.
How has being an athlete informed your college experience?Anne Cebula ’20 fencing with epee.
The fencing program at Columbia University has forced me to hone my time-management skills. Since we train at [Columbia’s] Dodge Hall in the morning twice a week, our evenings and the rest of the week are dedicated to training at our home clubs throughout the city. Even though my club is in Chelsea, these practice sessions mean that we usually don’t get home until 9 or 10 PM. But learning to budget my time and forcing myself to be productive during hours when I want nothing more than to sleep in or sit in the sun is something that has made my college experience a bit different than most.
How did you first become interested in fencing?
I watched the 2008 Olympics on television, which was in Beijing that year. I distinctly remember the bird’s nest-shaped stadium and the elaborate opening and closing showed a highlight reel of a fencing match. I was captivated by how entirely different it looked in comparison to other sports, and the overwhelming emotion involved every time someone scored a point in an intense bout: masks were being