Emily Beihold gets the recommended eight hours of sleep every night — somehow.
The communications major at the University of California, San Diego keeps a checklist for her busy day-to-day activities; and busy is an understatement with her list of accomplished tasks.
“Budgeting, prioritizing — lots of to-do lists that I really enjoy because I like crossing things off,” Beihold said. “It’s like my happy place, organizing.”
It’s an impressive checklist for the 20-year-old and 2017 Burroughs High graduate.
Beihold commits nearly 15 hours of practice a week to her sport, which paid off with All-American honors as an épée fencer this past season. The sophomore also helped the Tritons program to its best finish in the NCAA National Fencing Championship since 2008.
In addition to her fencing obligations, she also spearheads and creates content for the Tritons athletic department as a communications intern.
If that wasn’t enough, Beihold also spends time writing and composing music that’s heard on a slew of streaming platforms.
Oh, and then there’s the homework. Beihold has stepped up her studies and plans to earn a undergraduate degree in three years.
“She’s like Leonardo Da Vinci,” University of California, San Diego fencing coach Juan Calderon said. “With the fencing and the communications, she’s multi-talented and is able to do many things.
“But at the same time, and which is also important, she actually keeps a relatively low profile. Although she has many reasons to be super proud of what she’s doing and to show off, she doesn’t.”
Above it all, one of the pinnacles of what’s was a jam-packed year was Beihold’s second appearance at the 2019 NCAA Fencing Championships at the Wolsten Center at Cleveland State University last March.
Beihold placed 12th out of 24 épée fencers and received All-American honors to go along with her second consecutive All-Western Fencing Conference selection.
The sophomore was one of five Tritons to qualify for the national competition this past season as an at-large selection. The NCAA only selects two wild-card entrants nationwide to compete in the national championship.
“I was lucky to make it again, but I knew exactly what to expect this time,” Beihold said. “I knew how to train for it a lot better because, last time around, I didn’t realize how tiring it would be to fence so many bouts in a row. At practice, I would fence people with no breaks to gain that endurance and it really served me well in nationals this year.”
The Tritons placed 13th overall and matched the program’s best finish in 11 years, when it qualified six competitors.
Beihold concluded the national competition even in marks with 92 touches and 92 against, and finished with a 12-11 record that included a victory against three of the four tournament semifinalists and a notable win against the 2018 champion Amanda Sirico of Notre Dame. She previously defeated Sirico as a freshman in the 2018 championship at Penn State, where she finished 20th.
“I know she wasn’t really happy with how she did on her first appearance,” Calderon said. “It’s her second year. She matured much more in that direction. She had a great competition. She showed those tactical skills — a lot more patience.
“There’s room to go. Maybe she could’ve been more patient and more tactical, and that’s where we’re heading with her third year.”
Beihold was surprised to make it to nationals as a freshman. She was tied with a teammate in the conference regionals and was forced into an extra play-off match to decide the final spot to head to Penn State. Beihold defeated her teammate, 5-4, to book a plane ride, but it wasn’t pretty.
“I was so shocked because I didn’t expect to make it my freshman year,” Beihold said. “I went over to Penn State and got absolutely murdered by everybody.”
The fencer’s intuition played a big part in the program’s success this past season. The program created a new position for the team called the communications captain, a role that was set up as an internship. As the first individual to hold that title, Beihold utilized what she learned in her major to drive the team’s success.
“Emily doesn’t only have to fence and keep the focus on what she’s doing — the mental part of the game is super important — she has to pay attention to everything else that is going on because she has to write up the summary,” Calderon said. “She needs to capture video and take pictures and that is a huge challenge.
“When it’s her turn to be on the strip and put her mind on what she needs to do, how does she do it? I’m not sure? That’s really amazing. And she acknowledges that it’s a big challenge, but she has developed the skills to change focus in a matter of minutes, from one thing to another. That’s the greatest skill of life.”
Beihold’s first foray in fencing at UC San Diego didn’t go well. In fact, Calderon said their first lessons were borderline disasters based on the athlete’s early impatient manner in her game. But as time progressed, the two clicked.
“She’s in a perfect moment right now,” Calderon said. “Everything is working. My only regret is that she plans to graduate in three years. Next year will be her last year and that’s going to be a real pity. We’re going to miss her greatly when she graduates.”
Beihold has grown more patient in her collegiate bouts. The sophomore admits she used to be more of an aggressive fencer, but her patient and timely approach has given her more success this year.
“People used to call me steamroller — or something — because I used to attack, attack, attack and then just roll people down,” Beihold said. “That wasn’t working for me.”
Beihold began fencing when she was 8 years old after years of watching her father fence at an épée-only club. She started out recreationally in the foil discipline, but shortly switched over to épée.
When Beihold turned 12, she started taking the sport seriously when she joined the Swords Fencing Studio in Burbank, a five-minute drive from her home.
The épée discipline focuses more on stabbing any part of the body, even the toes. Beihold’s weapon of choice has a pistol grip as opposed to the French grip to give her more control of her blade while she focuses on her opponent on the strip.
Beihold’s training routine runs for three hours on Mondays and Wednesdays, four hours on Saturday and she conditions for one hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She also has private lessons twice a week that are scheduled to last 30 minutes, but normally run about 45-minutes long.
“I think fencing has actually helped me with my time-management skills,” Beihold said. “There was a quarter where I was a student fencer, part of the school newspaper, I was an intern and I also had a job. It was a lot.”
A business minor accompanies her communications focus, and her scholastic endeavor progressed through her drive to work behind-the-scenes in entertainment and music.
“I was kind of unsure with what I wanted to do,” Beihold said. “I knew I liked writing and I was definitely going to go into the entertainment industry at some point, so I thought it was a broad encapsulation of many opportunities.
“By being a communications major and business minor, I kind of wanted to see how I can better market myself as a songwriter, so that was definitely my thinking.”
A cornerstone of Beihold’s musical career includes two records featured in “I’m Not Here,” a 2017 film starring JK Simmons. The songs, “Child of the Moon” and “Not Who We Were” can be heard on Apple Music and Spotify. Her work has a combined 300,000 plays on the streaming services.
As for what’s in store post-graduation, Beihold looks to instill her fencing practice on Burbank’s younger generation.
“I wonder what’s next,” Beihold said. “I’m nervous for the graduating part.”
Before that, Beihold will look to build on her recent success in next season’s fencing season. And although her days might be packed with a multitude of activities, she also plans on continuing doing something that is vital to her success — getting her standard eight hours of sleep.