Szymanski’s WVU Life Leads To New One In Orlando
ORLANDO, Fla.–The Andretti Indoor Karting and Games center in Orlando is a cacophony of light and sound.
Hundreds of video games – from the latest in virtual reality to old-school classics – and a quarter-mile superkart track, which serpentines through the 150,000 square foot facility, bing and bong, whiz and roar.
Wednesday morning the Mountaineer football players and staff gathered at Andretti’s, which is owned by Mario and his legendary racing family. It’s just a short straightaway down Universal Boulevard from the team’s Rosen Shingle Creek hotel. The Mountaineers were joined at Andretti’s on Wednesday by children from the West Lakes community, which surrounds Camping World Stadium, and together, the big kids and the little ones, enjoyed a couple of hours of fun on the track and video screens.
Watching all the happenings, as monster-sized Mountaineers squeezed themselves into go-karts not made for 300-pounders, was an Andretti employee so excited she was practically dancing a jig.
That’s because Samantha Szymanski used to dance often during West Virginia athletic events. She spent four years as a member of the WVU Dance Team before graduating in 2013, and is now the beverage manager at Andretti’s, which is a combination of Dave & Buster’s, a NASCAR road race and full-scale dining experience.
A native of Pittsburgh, Szymanski made sure she was working Wednesday at Andretti’s when the West Virginia was in the house. Not only did she get a chance to see her fellow Mountaineers, but it also allowed her to adjust her schedule so she could have off Friday afternoon to attend WVU’s Camping World Bowl showdown with Syracuse.
“I’m definitely going to the game,” she smiled. “My bartering system was if I opened today, I would be able to go to the game on Friday, so that’s why I’m here bright and early.”
Even though she now lives in Florida, she remains a big Mountaineer fan.
“WVU was the best four years of my life,” she stated. “I was the captain of the dance team my senior year. We won the national championship at NCA in Daytona my freshman and sophomore year.”
She’s been in Orlando since leaving Morgantown over five years ago.
“After I graduated from WVU, I got an internship with Disney, so I did that internship for about six months,” explained Szymanski. “After that, I worked seasonally for Disney for about a year and a half. Then I went to the ‘dark side’ and worked for Universal – they paid a little bit more. When Andretti’s opened up last fall, I came over and applied and was hired on the spot, and I’ve been here since.
“I wanted to dance at Disney and be a character performer and all that jazz, but that didn’t play out for me,” she concluded. “I’m a little too tall for most of the characters.”
The dance career at Disney may not have work out, but she’s still involved in Central Florida’s bustling tourist industry. She’s now employed by one of the newest and hottest entertainment destinations in Orlando.
On Wednesday, she was on hand as parts of her old life combined with her new one.
Video: Kevin Kinder / Jillian Kinder