Learning to Reach Out
Sally Alrutz could cite an impressive list of accomplishments as a Williston athlete. A six-year varsity swimmer, she was the school’s MVP in seventh grade and only got better, eventually setting school records in the 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly, and 100 backstroke (plus additional records as anchor of her relay team), and earning All-NEPSAC honors as she helped lead the Wildcats to three New England championships. In more than 70 dual meets over her six-year career, she never placed below second, leading Athletic Director Mark Conroy to note, “It’s not exaggerating to say she’s one of the great swimmers in school history.”
And yet when asked what achievement she is most proud of, Sally, who is now swimming for the NCAA Division 1 Providence College Friars, does not mention athletics at all. “The relationships that I’ve built with teachers,” she answers. “I’m not that outgoing of a person, especially when it comes to talking with adults or reaching out when I am struggling. So just being able to meet with a teacher and say, ‘Hey, I’m doing the reading but something is just not clicking. Do you have any suggestions?’ That’s something I’m pleased with.”
The only child of Paul Alrutz, a social worker, and Paula Alrutz, a nurse, Sally grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, and attended the local Montessori elementary school. With middle school on the horizon, the school’s principal suggested Williston to her parents. “She said Sally will do great no matter what school she attends,” her parents recalled in a letter to Williston. “But she insisted that Sally would have more challenges both in the classroom and with her swimming at Williston. Now that Sally has graduated, our family can say she was definitely right.”
The Alrutzes cite the availability of financial aid as a key to their daughter’s success (Sally received the Emily N. McFadon Vincent ’49 and Bob E. Vincent Scholarship.) “There is no question that it would not have been possible without the financial aid we received,” they note.
As pleased as the family is now, Sally notes that her parents were initially hesitant about her attending Williston. Once they toured campus, however, that changed. “One of the things that stuck out for my dad was the community at Williston, and how everyone just seemed so nurturing and was there to support everyone else. That was an environment he really wanted me to be in.”
And it has indeed proven nurturing. “I’ve definitely grown in a lot of ways,” says Sally, who also ran cross-country for three years and danced her junior year. “I was there for six years, and a lot changes. My overall outlook on things is different. In seventh grade, I was a ‘whatever happens, happens,’ go-with-the-flow kind of person. I’m still like that, but I’ve learned to prioritize things. I’ve built stronger values about education, and the ability to reach out to people when I need it.”
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