Favorite athlete: Serena Williams
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against Bensalem, and the last couple nostalgic moments on the field during Senior Night.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Tripping and falling at the finish line of my first ever high school invitational as a freshman and skidding both of my knees. I also got sun poisoning there…in March.
Music on mobile device: A Star is Born soundtrack
Future plans: To attend either Thomas Jefferson or Drexel University and major in nursing.
Words to live by: “We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.”
One goal before turning 30: Obtain an advanced degree in nursing and become a nurse practitioner.
One thing people don’t know about me: I love grocery shopping and cooking.
By Mary Jane Souder
Grace Sutton is something pretty close to a coach’s dream.
For starters, the Harry S Truman senior can put a positive spin on just about anything. Last fall, she was captain of a field hockey team that was winless in SOL National Conference play and won just three games. Listening to Sutton tell it, the season was nothing short of a positive experience.
“That’s one thing coach (Dipi) Bhaya preached – positivity all the time,” Sutton said. “That was her motto – positivity, and she definitely set the tone for the entire team.
“After games, it was a little depressing, but looking back on it, it was a lot of great memories, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Small wonder track coach Micah Wright is already trying to imagine life without his senior thrower.
“I’ll be very honest with you – we’ll be sad to see her go, and I’m sure I’m echoing the thoughts and sentiments of a lot of folks who’ve come in contact with her,” the Tigers’ coach said. “She’s just a great all-around leader – very responsible, great team player and always here to support the team and carry out whatever I as a coach may ask her to do.
“I’ll be sad to see her go, and I’ve been saying that since the season started. She has greatness written all over her, and she’s humble.”
Bhaya echoed similar sentiments.
“She’s just an incredible kid,” the Tigers field hockey coach said. “She’s reliable, she’s dependable, she’s wise beyond her years. She’s coachable, she’s well respected with the officials, with her teammates and faculty and in the community.”
Inspirational is another word Bhaya uses to describe Sutton, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was in fourth grade. It was a diagnosis that was a long time coming.
“I lost a lot of weight,” Sutton said. “A lot of people didn’t have answers, and I was going to a lot of different specialists.
“One night my mom was like, ‘We can’t do this anymore. We need to go to CHOP.’ I had been to a couple of different hospitals, and they said, ‘Oh, it’s probably bacterial, and it will go away.’ It was only getting worse.
“Finally, I was admitted to CHOP. It was kind of scary because at first they thought it was bacterial, and everyone who came into my room had to be in full hazmat. So that was kind of scary being so young, thinking you’re contagious.”
Receiving a diagnosis did not bring immediate relief.
“At first, it seemed like my whole world was done,” Sutton said. “But I actually was talking to my doctor, and she was like, ‘I have Crohn’s Disease too,’ and that changed my perspective on it.
“Here’s this woman who is living a perfectly normal life, and she has what I have - I’ll be okay. It’s probably my doctor that made me think of it as not a downfall and more like – I have this, but I can still go on with my whole life.”
Sutton has a restricted diet and also receives infusion treatments.
“Every six weeks I go to CHOP and get – it’s called Remicade,” she said. “I just sit for a little bit and they give me an infusion.”
One thing is certain – Sutton hasn’t let it slow her down.
“No matter what she’s going through, you’d never know she was going through anything because she’s such a positive player for her team,” Bhaya said. “She gives you 112 percent every time I see her.
“She could have the worst day and still give me her best day. She’s the kind of kid – she’s doesn’t just talk about doing things, she’s shows it in every action she takes.”
It’s hardly surprising that Sutton received her field hockey team’s highest award – the coach’s award.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever given the award,” Bhaya said. “I should be calling it the Grace Sutton Award in the future because she’s just that type of kid.”
As a youngster, Sutton played just about every sport that came down the pike, following in the footsteps of her brother Jackson.
“He was a year older than me, so when he joined baseball, I was on the baseball team with him,” she said. “I was on his soccer team.
“Then I started branching off and I played softball. Finally, I was like, ‘I think I want to do dance.’”
Dance has been Sutton’s passion. She began taking lessons when she was six and hasn’t stopped.
“I take ballet, jazz, lyrical, tap throughout the week,” she said. “I’ll leave my school sport, and sometimes I have to leave early to be there at five. I might be there until nine. Those long nights are normally two or three nights a week. I have Tuesdays and Fridays off.”
How did Sutton catch the dancing bug?
“My mom was a gymnast,” she said. “I actually did gymnastics with my brother when I was younger.
“All of my mom’s friends were like, ‘Sign her up for dance, sign her up for dance.’ I wasn’t really a dance type of girl. I was really shy and didn’t want to get on stage, so it was difficult at first. Once I finally grew out of my comfort zone I learned to love it.”
Sutton has danced in the school’s musicals, beginning with American Idiot when she was a freshman, Honeymoon in Las Vegas her sophomore year and Chicago last year. The productions for Truman’s highly regarded theater program include not only evening rehearsals but Saturday practices from seven until three as well.
“This year we did Freaky Friday which was different than anything I’d done before,” Sutton said. “It was more like street dancing, and at first I was like – I don’t know if I really want to do this.
“Once everything came together, I was like, ‘I remember – this is why I do it because I love the performance.”
Sutton hopes to join a dance team in college.
“But not a competitive one, just a recreational dance at games and stuff because I still want to stay in it,” she said.
Sutton – who joined the track team in middle school - got her first taste of field hockey when she tried out for the team as a freshman at the encouragement of then coach Kayla Kowalick.
“She gave me a stick, and I started playing around with the ball – I just really liked it,” Sutton said.
The squad has struggled in a tough SOL National, but count on Sutton to put a positive spin on it.
“A lot of people say, ‘Truman, aren’t their sports not great?’” she said. “It kind of makes me a little angry.
“Especially the past couple of years, (our school) has really done some amazing things. I feel like within the past two years with the (success of the) football team, there’s just a new vibe in the school with sports, and people are taking it seriously. I think (athletic director) Gretchen (Cammiso) helped a lot with that.”
When Bhaya took over the helm of the field hockey program two years ago, the veteran coach brought a tougher coaching style.
“It was kind of scary at first, but it was what we needed,” she said. “She pushed me to be the best player I could possibly be, and I thank her for that.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been some tough times.
“When she became our coach, we were not having a great season, and halfway through, she had us build a little bonfire, and we put our frustrations on paper and we put it in the fire, and we’re like – ‘New season, new beginnings,’” said Sutton.
Under Bhaya, the title of captain included expectations.
“In previous years, captains had that title,” she said. “They didn’t have much of a leadership position, but coach Bhaya definitely made us become leaders.”
This spring, Sutton throws discus, shot put and javelin for the track team with the discus her specialty. The large numbers out for the team are an indication of the changing times at Truman.
“Looking back at ninth grade, we had maybe 15 girls on the team, and now we have a team that’s a full bus,” she said. “It’s crazy how the programs are changing.”
Wright is looking for good things from Sutton.
“She’s going to score in the majority of our meets, and the goal is certainly to get her to the postseason, get her to districts,” he said.
As far as choosing a college, Sutton is deciding between Thomas Jefferson and Drexel and will major in nursing, an interest she admits was piqued through her own battle with Crohn’s disease.
A top-flight student, Sutton is a member of the National Honor Society. She is involved in the March of Dimes Club and has worked with Truman Buddies, a club that works with special needs students. She also is a member of the Varsity Club.
Although Sutton’s days at Truman are numbered, she will not soon be forgotten.
“When you look at her, she’s inspirational,” Bhaya said. “If you know a little bit of her history, she’s inspirational in that way. To be honest, sometimes I would forget what she was going through because she gave me her all.
“If I could have 10 Grace Suttons, I would be lucky. I’m going to miss her terribly. I’m already missing her now in the offseason. It’s just different without Grace Sutton being there. She’s just a great, great kid.”