At 2 in the morning on a Saturday, most thirteen and fourteen year olds are probably asleep, or hanging out with friends watching television at a sleepover.
But not Darius Sanders and Samantha (Sammy) Krusza. On a recent Saturday morning, the two were on the road to Indiana for an intense skating boot camp with World Classic Champion skaters who flew in from Poland to train the United States Figure Skating Champions along with a group of their talented peers.
Sanders and Krusza were able to arrive at the boot camp just before it began at 5:30 a.m. From there the pair joined their groups and began working on basics and skating tricks in intervals until 6:00 p.m. The pair also had solo practices with the champions, teaching the pair how to perform World Classic level lifts and spins. This training routine continued for four days.
“It was intense,” said Susan Krusza, Sammy’s mother, “She had bruises on her shoulders and knees.”
Sanders left the experience bruised and tired as well, but he was more determined than ever to put on muscle mass and strengthen his endurance.
“I have to work out some more… I have to keep practicing, keep my goals up,” said Sanders.
Sanders,14, and Krusza,13, have been skating for the majority of their lives. Sanders has been skating since he was five years old and Krusza has been skating since she was four. Sanders, who always loved skating with his mom during skating sessions at Glenwood Skating Rink, was inspired to push his hobby and natural ability to the limit after watching “Roll Bounce”.
Krusza decided to turn her amusement into a lifestyle as well after watching young adults at her skating rink perform tricks that she wanted to duplicate.
The two talented skaters, who individually won numerous awards and medals performing in competitions, decided to work together in pair competitions, thanks to the suggestion of Julie Jessup, a coach they mutually shared.
In 2015 they won United States Figure Skating Champion in Albuquerque, N.M., and this year the pair won first place and the title of National Champion Figure Skater in the 2017 USA Roller Sports National Championships in Lincoln, Neb.
Now, the duo has their eyes on garnering the junior title for World’s, by competing and placing in the 2018 Paris Slalom World Cup in France.
They each devote their lives to their passion by dedicating hours after school to the skating rink, trying to hone their craft either together in pairs practice three times a week, or by themselves until later hours at night.
It can be difficult to balance school and skating practice.
“It’s okay right now, the balancing it out. It’s just the homework that’s all. I have to keep these grades up. But, it’s getting easier now,” said Sanders.
Krusza also added, “It is really hard to balance it out sometimes. I have to get up early some days to try to finish my homework. But usually, it’s not too bad.”
Both athletes are firmly on the honor roll with GPAs above 3.0. Krusza is particularly excited this year for her academic achievement, because she gets to participate in the National Junior Honors Society.
Keeping an arduous training schedule can present its challenges, when it comes to coordinating with skating rinks who also have to host birthday parties and other special events for their patrons. But, the dynamic duo doesn’t let these obstacles get in their way.
“We find other days to practice; if there is a party on this day, we go to practice on the next. If [one of us] can’t make it, we try to go either Saturday or Sunday to make it up.”
Because of their tireless effort, the duo has learned to perform numerous lifts and spins including the airplane, the press, the Kennedy and the guillotine, where Krusza has to trust Sanders enough so he can spin his extended leg over her head.
Even though their sport is both physically and mentally demanding, they both stay motivated to strive for success through remembering their idols, focusing on the encouragement from their families during stressful times and by holding themselves accountable for being role models for the younger generation.
“I want to show them that there’s more sports out there other than basketball or baseball. It’s not a lot of kids who do a lot of skating. They usually do session skate, but I want to show them this–skating artistically. So, if you want to be as good as me, I can help you get there,” said Sanders.
Krusza also said, “Nothing is impossible. If you believe in it, you can do it and there’s nothing that can stop you. So that’s something that we definitely learned.”
Sanders said he is also very thankful for his sponsors: Damenzo’s Pizza; Harry Ohdi, an electrician; Clear Vision Multimedia; Ultimate Car Wash on Western in Beverly; Principal Christopher Goines and Nettina Harris, administrator, at Butler College Prep High School and his classmates who support him at competitions.
A special shout out to his coaches: Head Coach Anita Armstrong from the Glenwood Skate Club, Pair’s Coach Julie Jessup from Lynwood Skate, and additional coaching from James Turner, Dr. Janie Kyle and Willie Campbell.
He said he was also thankful for Rodney Stansbury, who provides private security for Sanders during competitions.