Athlete Spotlight: Pittsfield Figure Skating Club's Daniella Santamarina
PITTSFIELD — Daniella Santamarina has been a staple on the third floor of the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires for years. The Monument Mountain senior has become one of the top figure skaters in the area thanks to countless hours spent honing her craft in downtown Pittsfield. She took home a gold medal at the 2020 Bay State Games in January in Williamstown for the Intermediate Excel level. The future Crusader at the College of the Holy Cross stopped in at The Berkshire Eagle offices this week to chat about her own skating, coaching new youth skaters, what the future has in store and much, much more.
Berkshire Eagle: How did you first get involved with figure skating?
Daniella Santamarina: I actually lived in Worcester for a year when I was four and saw a flyer about it, but my parents said I was too young. A year later, we had moved back to Pittsfield and I saw a flyer from the Boys and Girls Club. I asked if I could skate, and they said yes. I started with the Learn-to-Skate program in the fall and I loved it. I've been doing it for about 12 years now.
Eagle: Was anyone in your family into skating?
Santamarina: No, my family is from Guatemala, so it's pretty much unheard of down there. I have a 15-year-old brother, Gabe, but he's a skateboarder and snowboarder.
Eagle: Do you travel there at all?
Santamarina: Yes, I was there for a wedding in November, and I was there the previous summer, and then my family comes here to visit too.
Eagle: Who helped you develop your passion for the sport?
Santamarina: My mom has always supported me, and I have to say it's really all the coaches at the club. In the intro you work with all of them. But, especially my coach now, Tracy Fancher, who has been my coach really since I can remember.
Eagle: Who do you like watching skate?
Santamarina: I really like Jason Brown. He's an American skater. I love Nathan Chen too, and Johnny Weir was awesome.
Eagle: What's the toughest element you are working on?
Santamarina: Probably working on my double toe loop and my double loop. You start off with your basic skills, then move to the easier jumps like a waltz. Then it's the single loops, on to axels and then I worked on my double salchow. Once I landed that, I progressed into my double toe loop, which I can kind of do and the double loop which I have not quite landed yet.
Eagle: What is your history with the Bay State Games?
Santamarina: I did my first one in 2014. Things went really well this year. I got first place in intermediate excel. For USFS the levels are determined by testing, you're judged by a panel and whatever level you pass is the level you compete on. Next would be novice and then junior and senior.
Eagle: You'll graduate Monument Mountain this spring, what are your plans for next year?
Santamarina: I'm going to the College of the Holy Cross. It's kind of funny I'm going back to Worcester. I actually hadn't planned on looking at it, but we were going to look at Boston College, and I just said why not stop in Worcester along the way and I just fell in love with the campus at Holy Cross.
Eagle: What is the figure skating community like in Berkshire County?
Santamarina: Oh my God, I'll start off with just the Pittsfield Figure Skating Club. You go up there and you learn skating, but you leave having learned so many lessons. You learn about yourself, but also about determination, hard work, getting back up, making friends, being in a community and working as a team. I don't think I can explain the impact that the club has had on me. The skating community is great. The kids who have graduated come back to coach or watch, and to the kids who just started it's incredible.
Eagle: So you coach a little bit now too?
Santamarina: I coach the Learn-to-Skate program. This is the first official year, but I've volunteered the last five or six years. It's awesome. I love it. You get such a huge range of personalities at that level. I have kids ranging from four to 11 or 12, and they're all there because they love it.
Eagle: What are you interested in studying at Holy Cross?
Santamarina: You go in undecided there, but I would like to study psychology or the neurosciences. Honestly, skating did probably have an impact on that, just seeing and knowing some of these kids and what they've been through. I just want to make a difference in people's lives.
Eagle: How did you end up at Monument Mountain and how is it?
Santamarina: I started out at Stearns in Pittsfield, but then my mom liked Richmond, so we school choiced in there, and then all my friends were going on to Monument. I went and shadowed, and my mom was willing to drive me for a lot of years. I love it. It's a pretty tight-knit community, about 100 kids in my grade. I think our school prides itself on a good community, and I feel like my teachers really care about me. I really like AP Spanish and AP Biology.
Eagle: What else do you do when you're not skating?
Santamarina: I run cross-country at Monument, but I'm pretty bad. I really enjoyed it though. I also play clarinet and saxophone. I play clarinet in jazz band. I also work at The Mount in their cafe. Most of the time I'm skating, though. When I'm not doing that, I like walking my dog, he's an Irish Setter named Shamus. My brother decided to spell it wrong.
Eagle: Did you have a relationship with the late coach Unsworth?
Santamarina: Yes, he meant a lot to me. He was awesome. Cross-country and skating both taught me a lot of the same things, and coach Unsworth was one of the most humble people I've ever met. I was very lucky to work with him.
Eagle: What's next for your skating?
Santamarina: We have our show coming up on March 14 at the Boys and Girls Club, so we're getting our group practices started, getting music ready for my senior solo. I'm super excited to choreograph a group this year as well. Then I'll probably do Lake Placid Skating Championships in June, and then keep testing as much as I can before I leave, but I'd love to skate in college. They have a skating club.
Eagle: What's your favorite song or program?
Santamarina: I'm skating to "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts for my senior solo. My mom loves the song. My favorite one might be my "Phantom of the Opera Medley," or last year's "Ashes" by Celine Dion, though.
Eagle: What's the coolest place you've gotten to travel to for skating?
Santamarina: Oh, probably my first State Games of America in Omaha, Neb. It was just my mom, Tracy and I, and at first we weren't sure about Nebraska, but it's actually a really cool place. More than just flat cornfields. Lake Placid is also amazing.
Eagle: What are you watching these days and what's your best movie of the year?
Santamarina: I just finished that new Netflix original show "You" and I'm re-watching "Criminal Minds" for the eighth time. I love Reid. I really liked "Knives Out," but it wasn't nominated for much, but I really like mysteries.
Eagle: What's your go-to spot for a post-competition meal?
Santamarina: Hot Harry's, definitely. It's almost tradition at our club. Down in Great Barrington, though, I like Siam Square's Thai food a lot, or just Marketplace. I go there a lot.
Eagle: Your friends that aren't skaters, do they understand what you do?
Santamarina: Not really, they think it's really crazy. But they're so supportive and they love it. They ask me questions and watch the videos and all that.
This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Mike Walsh.
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