Santi Canella ’25 from New York City is jumping in his first season on the men’s track and field team and has jumped straight into the school record books in the triple jump. In this installment of “Seven Questions,” Canella discusses his introduction to track and field, the successes and challenges of being a jumper and those that helped him make it to Middlebury.
Owen Park: What caused you to start participating in track and field?
Santi Canella: I started out playing soccer and didn’t become interested in track until middle school, when one of my PE coaches suggested that I try it out. I really liked all of the sprinting events — specifically the 100m, 200m, and 400m dashes — and slowly began to commit more and more of my time to training. I didn’t start competing in jumping events until my sophomore year when I asked my coach if I could do the long jump. I hadn’t tried it before, but it kept being one of my best events, so I decided to stick with it.
OP: Who inspired you to focus on triple jumping?
SC: Coach Cassie, one of my track and field coaches. During one of my first practices, she told me she was impressed by my form during drills and suggested that I try out the triple jump. I like to think I was always built for jumping. When I was a kid, I used to climb on stuff around the house and try to jump as far as I could from wherever I was. I was also one of the kids that could grab onto the basketball hoops in high school, so in some ways it feels like I was always meant to jump.
OP: How did the pandemic affect your ability to join the track team?
SC: As a walk-on, I really didn’t feel the effect of the pandemic on my ability to be recruited. If anything, my process was much busier during the school year. I was interested in walking on and I met a jumper that encouraged me to reach out to the track and field coaches. I emailed them my jumping scores from high school and was later invited to practice with the team.
OP: Is there a person or mentor that you consider to be an integral part of your journey to collegiate athletics?
SC: My mom. She’s always pushed me really hard throughout my life and I probably wouldn’t be at Middlebury or on the track team without her. She’s always been there for me ever since we moved from Italy when I was really young. She always has really high expectations for me, which can be hard to deal with at times, but I have to thank her for being there to push me, both academically and athletically.
OP: What would you say is the hardest part of doing the triple jump?
SC: Honestly, everything. The triple jump is a really taxing event both mentally and physically. The way your body moves during the event is really weird — you’re trying to shift your body weight from foot to foot while running at full speed in order to jump farther. I’ve gotten shin splints during practices and I rolled my ankle during my last meet. It’s really important for me to stay fit and be diligent in dealing with my recovery, especially with such a demanding practice schedule.
OP: What would you say your biggest success in jumps has been so far?
SC: Tying the school record for triple jump. Looking back on that meet, it felt pretty normal except for that one event. I felt really good about the jump after I finished, but I only learned that I had tied the record while I was eating afterwards. One of my teammates came running up to me and said that I had tied the school record for triple jump. I remember dropping my food and running all the way over to the record board in the Athletic Center to see that my jump tied the school record. It felt amazing, knowing that my hard work put me in a position to walk onto the team and to then go and tie a school record.
OP: Do you have a favorite spot on campus?
SC: There are so many. If I had to pick it would be either Proctor or the Athletic Center. Being in the Athletic Center really relaxes me, it allows me to zone in on practice and do what I have to do in order to become better. But it’s honestly wherever the homies are at — as long as I’m with my friends that’s where I enjoy being.