SALEM — It’s one thing to be recognized as an exceptional athlete or a top student. But one of the best gifts of all is being viewed as a good person.
Jillian Witwicki possesses all three of those traits with confidence, humility and grace.
A three-sport athlete from Danvers who attends the Pingree School, the 18-year-old Witwicki was recognized for her overall character and outstanding credentials by being named the winner of the 52nd annual Salem News Student-Athlete Award during a ceremony at Finz Restaurant last night.
“I was actually talking to my parents on the way over here and said that I don’t think I do anything exceptional; I just go through my life,” Witwicki said after her name was announced as the winner. “I’m just your average kid going through life.
“To be considered with this group of kids is just such an honor. It was an unreal feeling.”
Witwicki was the choice of the five judges who interviewed 14 student-athlete candidates from high schools in The Salem News coverage area (Beverly, Salem, Danvers, Peabody, Marblehead, Swampscott, North Shore Tech, Bishop Fenwick, Pingree, St. John’s Prep, Hamilton-Wenham, Ipswich, Masconomet and Manchester Essex).
The judges included state Rep. John Keenan of Salem (a former Student-Athlete Award winner); Michelle Talisman, property manager of Peabody House and chairwoman of the Peabody Chamber of Commerce; Al Dichner, COO of Aries and R & L Associates of Beverly and a board member of the American Red Cross of Northeast Massachusetts; Matt Williams, assistant sports editor at The Salem News; and Phil Stacey, sports editor at The Salem News.
“Jill is so unassuming,” noted Talisman. “Very self-assured. She has a manner about her where she almost puts you at ease. Jill has good karma.”
Witwicki received the $1,000 Nelson Benton Scholarship (named in honor of the long-time Salem News reporter and editorial page editor who retired in 2013) and will be given a commemorative silver bowl signifying her win. Her name will also be engraved alongside the 51 previous Student-Athlete winners on the Student-Athlete trophy itself, which will reside at the Pingree School for the next year.