A third-generation rower, Anna Beshlian ’20 is part of a remarkable family legacy that has shaped her commitment as a scholar-athlete at Barnard. She rows for the Columbia Lions women’s crew, an NCAA Division I team, through the Columbia-Barnard Consortium. Majoring in American studies with a concentration in criminal justice, Beshlian studies incarceration in the U.S. while managing an intense practice schedule and course load. Learn more about Beshlian, below, in this “Barnard’s Got Game” Q&A.
How does being an athlete inform your college experience?
I wake up almost every day at 5:40 a.m. to practice on the water, and I’ll spend between three and six hours training. In order to balance this schedule with my academic and extracurricular commitments, I have to be organized and diligent about accomplishing tasks within certain time frames. But I don’t mind being busy; it keeps me focused.
Being an athlete also nicely complements my experience at Barnard because I am constantly surrounded by inspiring people. In the classroom, I am floored by the brilliance, dedication, and passion of Barnard students. And on my team, I am surrounded by immense resilience, strength, and intensity. The commitment to pursue and achieve excellence is a quality present in both athletic and academic spaces, and it’s fun to be a part of that.
What’s your “origin story” behind becoming a rower?
I’m a third-generation rower. My mom rowed in college and is still rowing for a master’s club program. My grandfather rowed, too, but I was never pressured into the sport by either of them. A good friend of my family is a rowing nut and had been trying to convince me to try it since I was 12 years old. Growing up, I played a lot of different sports: soccer, basketball, swimming, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee. At the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I decided that it was time to try something new. I joined a novice rowing program at [Seattle’s] Pocock Rowing Center, quickly fell in love with the sport, and decided that I wanted to pursue rowing at the collegiate level.
How do you “Feel Well, Do Well” when balancing academics and athletics?
Wellness comes first for me. I try really hard to take care of my body and my brain. It is a privilege to be able to work hard, train hard, and push myself to expand my athletic and intellectual limits, but I can only do so if I’m physically and mentally healthy. I strive to sleep seven to nine hours every night. I choose food that I know is going to fuel me throughout my classes and workouts. I also love to walk around the city. It is incredibly refreshing to get out of the Morningside Heights bubble and get a little perspective.
What is your major and why?
I’m majoring in American studies with a concentration in criminal justice and carceral studies. The American studies program at Barnard represents a critical examination of contemporary issues in the United States and in the Americas. It allows for a lot of student initiative to choose what they want to focus on based on what is most important to them. I chose American studies because of this flexibility as well as its interdisciplinary, social-justice-oriented approach. It combines all the best elements of history, sociology, political science, and critical race, ethnic, gender, and sexuality studies without feeling methodologically restrained.
What is your greatest athletic accomplishment?
My personal development following an injury has since put me in a position where I can contribute to the direction of the team. In late April of my first year, I fractured a rib. Rib stress fractures are fairly common in the sport, and they are a pretty tricky injury to manage, because the rib cage is in constant movement while we breathe. For about four or five months, I couldn’t exercise, and I didn’t row for almost nine months. I had never taken such an extended period off from any sport or physical activity. My muscles atrophied, my hand calluses faded, and I felt very disconnected from myself as a rower. From spring 2018 through my junior season, [I steadily built myself back to a place] where I felt I was training and contributing [how I wanted to].
We have a small team compared to some other programs in the Ivy League, but what I love about our team is that the athletes are a driving force as much as the coaches are. This year, there was some really competitive, committed energy on the team, and I think we are setting ourselves to be fast, fit, and very prepared to race hard in the spring. It’s been really cool to experience my own growth since the injury, in conjunction with the program’s positivity.
—SARAH PATAFIO ’20