Above: Anna Jordahl-Henry '23 (second to the right) and her track and field peers.

Being a student-athlete requires a lot of time and dedication, making athletics a major part of the college experience for any competitor. Track and field weight thrower Kayla-Rae Gordon ’23 and jumper Anna Jordahl-Henry ’23 couldn’t imagine their lives at Barnard any other way. 

Gordon, who is a psychology major, has always been passionate about sports and knew she could pursue her interests in athletics, academics, and more at Barnard. Similarly, film major Jordahl-Henry believes being a student-athlete has influenced her college life for the better, as she’s formed tight-knit bonds with her teammates and gained experiences like winning the 2020 Ivy League Indoor Heps Champion in high jump.

Jordahl-Henry and Gordon compete with Columbia’s Track and Field team through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, a unique partnership that provides the opportunity for Barnard athletes to compete with Columbia teams as part of a university-wide athletic program. This makes Barnard the only women’s college — and one of only a few liberal arts colleges — to offer NCAA Division I athletics, via the Ivy League Athletic Conference

In this “Barnard’s Got Game” Q&A, Gordon and Jordahl-Henry discuss the impact of athletics on their student life, including the support systems they have created and some of their favorite memories while competing. 

How does being an athlete influence your college experience?

Anna Jordahl-Henry '23
Anna Jordahl-Henry

Jordahl-Henry: I would say being an athlete at Barnard has shaped my experience in the best way. Coming to college is a big change for anyone, but being a part of the athletic program has introduced me to some of my favorite people on campus. I have met so many incredible people through my team and the larger athletic community. I can’t imagine how different my college experience would have been if I wasn’t a student-athlete.

Gordon: I feel extremely grateful to represent athletics while also representing what it truly means to be a woman at Barnard College. Being an athlete at this institution greatly influences my experiences at college in numerous ways and has allowed me to build extremely meaningful connections with like-minded people. I was able to find my community and support system, which has made all the difference in my experience. 


How did you first get into track and field, and how has it affected you since?

Kayla-Rae Gordon '23
Kayla-Rae Gordon

Gordon: I was always into sports, from a very young age. I tried dancing, swimming, water polo, and finally ended up sticking with track and field. I met my first throws coach, and she immediately advised me that I would be very good at these events if I put my mind to it. This was about four years ago, and from the second that I picked up the hammer, I knew I had fallen in love. I devoted myself to becoming the best athlete I could, while also maintaining focus on school and other priorities. 

Track and field helped me grow as a person and has taught me countless valuable lessons that I will carry with me for life. It has shown me immense pain and heartbreak while also blessing me with the highest moments of my life. I think one of the most important lessons in sports is that you get in what you put out, and in order to be the best you can be, you need to be solid in your mind, body, and confidence. 

Jordahl-Henry: I first began running track when I was around 5 years old. My dad ran track during his time at Harvard, and he would bring us to alumni track meets for fun where my twin sister Julia, who attends Columbia, and I would compete. When we ran across the finish line of our 200m race holding hands, our parents realized this might be something to pursue more seriously. 

We ran local fun runs until middle school, when we joined a youth track team for the first time. At the time, I was mostly a sprinter running the 100m, 200m, and relays. It wasn’t until 8th grade, when I joined my sister in a high-jump practice, that I realized I also wanted to be a high jumper. Through track and field, I have made lifelong friendships, with teammates and competitors alike, and connected with a plethora of talented people. 

Anna Jordahl-Henry '23
Jordahl-Henry competes

What is one of your favorite memories of participating in athletics at Barnard?

Jordahl-Henry: The sport can be challenging sometimes, but it has given me amazing experiences. The top of that list is winning an Ivy League championship in the high jump with my teammates cheering me on.

Gordon: One of my favorite memories of participating in athletics at Barnard is the athlete meet-ups that allow me to meet and resonate with other athletes. I remember my first meet-up vividly, and I remember feeling so nervous as an incoming freshman. Within minutes, I felt that I knew that the people I was surrounded by really cared about me and would support me in any way I neededWhat are your interests outside of track and field?

Kayla-Rae Gordon '23
Gordon competes during the 2020 Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge held on Jan. 24-25, 2020 at The Armory

What are your interests outside of track and field?

Jordahl-Henry: Outside of track, I’m the sociocultural chair on the executive board of Columbia’s Black Students’ Organization. I had the pleasure of planning the Kwanzaa Ball with other board members last semester.

Gordon: I am devoted to my studies. I thoroughly enjoy attending classes and being at this institution. I look forward to when we will be able to experience class and social life like we once did, before the pandemic. 

Another passion of mine is food and traveling, and I love exploring places in the city and stumbling upon new spots to have a great meal. I am also very passionate about the people around me and have made some friendships through Barnard that have helped me thrive, which I am extremely grateful for. 

How do you balance life as a student-athlete with your other activities and passions?

Gordon: Balance is something you learn very early on in sports. There will be countless times where you wish you could attend something or be somewhere but you have practice for a track meet and have to sacrifice “fun time” for sports. Despite this, when you love the sport so much that it no longer feels like a chore, you are willing to make these sacrifices because you see the benefit on the other side. I know there are moments when I need a break, and I listen to my body and take them, but I also know how much passion I have for what I do, and I ultimately love doing it. There are always ups and downs to every path you take, but I think over time I have found a schedule that works for me. 

Our track and field team gives us a free day once a week, and that is usually my “me time.” I will go out and explore my surroundings, get a breath of fresh air, and spend time with people I enjoy and love. Having [a] day to relax your mind even for a couple of hours is so necessary to every individual.

Jordahl-Henry: ​​I always make time for my self-care rituals, whether it’s face masks with my friends or treatment with our athletic trainers; the most important one for me is getting enough sleep. I believe that the way to stay at my best in all aspects of my life is to prioritize my well-being and happiness before all else.