Sohn’s strategy: Mind over matter


Her mind races. For a brief moment the world stops spinning. The sound of the gun is enough to resume the rotation of the planet on its axis and she takes off. She runs until the lactic acid has a negative pH and fights until the last millisecond. Athlete Anna Sohn crosses the finish line ending her race, but her mind continues racing on a course of its own.
Sohn finds that the sports she participates in go beyond solely physical. As a runner, the mental battle of maintaining endurance during a 3.1 mile race is especially challenging. As a fencer, Sohn relies on footwork, finesse and most importantly strategy. She is drawn to sports that work up a sweat and are simultaneously an exercise for the brain. The brain-power that goes into fencing and running are exhibited in Sohn’s ability to excel in both. Fencing in comparison to cross country is obviously different but as an athlete living the double-life, Sohn exhibits how they are similar.
Sohn raced the DCXC Invitational meet on Sept. 24. On a course that’s mostly flat it’s hard to keep from starting out too fast resulting in early fatigue. She maintained laser focus and came through the finish 23:08.00 among the junior girls. Coping with boredom and anxiety when racing or striving to hit a time relates to the pressure of a fencing bout. Indoor track runner Sarah Edery has methods to alleviate the mental turmoil. “I look at the scenery and sing songs in my head,” Edery said.
The coaching differs for fencing and cross country. Sohn is relaxed and even jokes around with her fencing coach. At the Rockville Fencing Academy, head coach Stuart Stacks follows the philosophy that provides all members with a physical and mental challenge that will build discipline, physical stamina and provide an enjoyable experience.
In cross country, the interactions with the coaches Sohn has had for the past three years is civil. “You can’t be informal with [Coach Redmond and Coach Buxton] but they care on a more personal level,” Sohn said.
Apart from differences in coaching Sohn finds the cross country team to be united just as fencing is. Sohn supports her fencing teammates as they make it to Nationals even though she only does fencing on her off-season. Sohn always appears at every race whether she is running or not. Cheering and shouting motivational phrases help the team tremendously. “[Sohn] always gets me through that last stretch. I also love carpooling with her,” cross country runner Erin Chelf said.
Running is known for its demanding mental toughness and fencing is known as “mental chess.” It’s no mystery that Sohn has insight on the mental endurance required in sports. To emerge victorious from a fencing bout Sohn must earn 15 points. Each point is earned by poking the opponent with a sword that bends upon contact. What distinguishes an average fencer from a great one isn’t the use of a foil sword over an epee or saber. “It is all strategy,” Sohn said.


Rena Edery

Staff Writer