CHESHIRE — Danielle Floyd doesn’t like to limit herself to one activity. Whether competing in softball or field hockey, or baking food in the kitchen, the Cheshire senior has enjoyed watching her skills develop over time.
When it came to making a college decision, Floyd was driven to pursue her full potential as a student-athlete. It’s led to playing softball and studying culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.
“It is a really good feeling to have this opportunity,” said Floyd. “With a lot of players having a hard time getting looked at by coaches due to COVID, it is good to have got my decision out of the way.”
“She has known for so long that she wanted to go into culinary,” said Cheshire softball coach Kristine Drust. "She has been feeding that passion and wanted to keep playing softball, too.”
Not many schools offer athletics and culinary arts, so Floyd was able to quickly narrow her college search. While SUNY-Cobleskill has both, Floyd didn’t feel as comfortable with the New York school as she did at Johnson & Wales.
She also looked at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, but that school doesn’t offer sports.
“Johnson and Wales was always at the top of my list,” reflected Floyd. “The campus is beautiful.”
Floyd was also familiar with Johnson & Wales coach Kim Camara-Harvey. In Floyd’s freshman year, Camara-Harvey had come to Cheshire for a softball clinic.
“I started thinking about college softball in eighth grade,” Floyd recalled. “My mom told me to look early at schools because you don’t know what to expect and it is also good to get to know the coaches early in the process.”
Floyd likes how the Johnson & Wales team works with players to balance their academic responsibilities.
“The coach is open to players missing a practice because they know that school comes first,” Floyd said. “She just wants you to make up the work.”
In starting her college career next year, Floyd hopes to make an immediate impact and help her teammates.
“Even though I’ll be a freshman, I want to be someone that people can come to if they need anything,” she said.
Off the diamond, Floyd dreams of becoming a pastry chef and working for a cruise line. She first became interested in culinary arts back in seventh grade when her mother needed help on Thanksgiving.
“At first, it took time to learn how everything works in the kitchen,” Floyd said. “It comes easier to me now.”
Her favorite dishes to prepare? Anything with bread or chocolate, especially chocolate lava cakes.
“It is fun being able to develop something out of ingredients. I can express myself through baking,” Floyd explained.
As a freshman, Floyd took an introductory culinary arts course. She wound up making a presentation about cooking, food and wellness at a Board of Education committee meeting.
“It was great to share my passion with others,” stated Floyd.
When teacher Paula Smalec retired in 2018, Floyd started learning from her field hockey coach Eileen Wildermann, who shifted from teaching English to culinary arts.
Floyd enjoyed taking Wildermann’s advanced cooking course called Food Service. Along with cooking in the classroom, students also prepare dishes for school and community events.
“It gives you culinary experience in the real world,” said Floyd.
While Floyd was fixed on pursuing culinary arts in college, Floyd was less certain about which sport to play, softball or field hockey. At one point, she considered playing both.
“I’ve been playing softball for so long, but field hockey also brings me joy,” said Floyd. “Since I’ll probably have six-hour labs in college, I think playing both sports would have been putting too much on my plate.”
At age 11, Floyd started her softball career as an infielder and pitcher. Eventually, she felt most comfortable in becoming an outfielder for the Rams and Cheshire Wildcats travel program.
“There is something about softball that brings me joy," explained Floyd. “I get a sense of relief when I step on the field. I know that I'm out there with great players who are always willing to help me.”
“Dee has shown us consistency, grit and unselfishness throughout her whole career,” said Drust. “She loves the game and her team.”
Floyd is excited to follow in the footsteps of her older sister Bri, a 2019 Cheshire grad now playing softball at William Paterson University in New Jersey.
“It is good to follow in her footsteps because she has been a role model for me,” Danielle said of her older sister. “I've always looked up to her.”
In becoming a varsity starter in 2019, Danielle was able to finally share the same field with Bri, In Danielle’s favorite game from that year, with Cheshire trailing Southington 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning, she cracked a two-run single to tie the score, then came across with the winning run on a base hit by Bri.
“It was a surreal moment. I didn't think that it was going to be my sister and I that ended up bringing home the win,” Danielle recalled. “Earlier in that season, I had told my mom that I wanted to share a big moment with my sister and it happened in that game.”
Later that season, in the Southern Connecticut Conference final, the Floyd sisters helped the Rams rally again to beat North Haven, 3-2, in eight innings.
In the Class LL tournamernt, Cheshire made the state semifinals for a fifth consecutive year before falling to Norwich Free Academy.
“It was sad to play my last game with my sister at DeLuca Field, but we can reflect on the great memories we've had together,” Floyd said.
Last year, Floyd hoped that the Rams could make another run in states, but the spring season was canceled due to the pandemic.
“It really stunk not being able to play, but we saw it as an opportunity to get better,” Floyd explained. “We know that our hard work will pay off when we get back on the field.”
While softball is her favorite sport, Floyd has also played a key role in the success of the Cheshire field hockey program. In 2018, Floyd and her older sister contributed to a defensive unit that posted a program record 19 shutouts.
“That was cool,” reflected Floyd. “I thought we were playing well, but didn’t expect to break the record. Lexie (Hemstock) was a beast in goal."
For the first time in 28 years, the Rams earned an unbeaten regular season in 2018. Cheshire won the SCC regular-season title and finished runner-up in the conference and Class L tournaments.
“With my sister being a senior on the team, it was great to share that last season with her,” said Floyd.
Last fall, CHS earned another perfect regular season and won the SCC Division A regular-season title. Teaming on defense with classmates Taylor Warburton and Megan Crowley, Floyd helped new varsity goalkeepers, junior Hannah Jalowiec and sophomore Elise Hurlburt, get six shutouts.
“We were playing our hearts out every time we got on the field,” said Floyd.
The Rams took an 11-0 record into the SCC Division A final, but lost 5-1 to Guilford. After playing her last game, Floyd was thankful to play a full season in the pandemic.
“Because of COVID-19, I was very nervous coming into the fall season,” recalled Floyd. “We had to play every game like it was our last because we could have been shut down at any time.”
For her contributions to the team, Floyd received Cheshire’s inaugural Unsung Hero Award.
“It was a little bit of a surprise for me,” Floyd said. “I’m grateful that my teammates voted for me. I’m always there for them.”
After getting to close out her field hockey career in 2020, Floyd wants to have the same opportunity in softball this spring.
“It means a lot to get back out there,” stated Floyd. “If I need to wear a mask, I’ll do it.”
Despite missing last season due to the pandemic, the Rams return a deep group of experienced players. A number of them will, like Floyd, be going on to play in college: Bri Pearson (Adelphi), Gracie Hemstock (Western New England), Trinadey Santiago (American International) and Ella Watson (Fairfield).
“I feel really good about being a part of that group,” said Floyd. “The whole senior class is an amazing group of girls.”