STAMFORD, Conn. – Westhill High School seniors Claire Howlett and Stephanie Roones have been friends since their kindergarten days at Stamford’s Roxbury School. Last week, they were named the co-recipients of the most coveted award for female high school athletes in Stamford.
Howlett and Roones will receive the Allyson Rioux Award, which is named after a former Westhill three-sport athlete. Rioux went out to become a second team All-American softball player at the University of Massachusetts. She died in 1989 at the age of 27 of a brain tumor.
Howlett is a nationally ranked distance runner. Roones played volleyball and basketball and throws the javelin for the girls track team. The award recognizes sportsmanship, leadership, excellent character and athletic prowess.
Sharing the award with a friend thrilled both girls, who became friends in kindergarten, live just a few miles apart and were in the same Girl Scout troop. “We played with our American Girl dolls at Claire’s house,’’ Roones said. “We had fashion shows with them.”
“We were tight when we were little, and we were always friends,’’ Howlett said. “We had classes together in middle school. I was excited when Steph joined the track team last year.”
The girls learned they were named co-winners while in school last week. “We saw each other and we were like ‘Whoa!’’’ Howlett said. “We both knew that each other applied. I think we were happy we both got it.”
Howlett and Roones are the 29th recipients of the award, which includes a scholarship. Howlett will continue her career at Stanford University, while Roones will compete for Monmouth. At last week’s Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship meet, Howlett won two events in meet record time, and Roones set a school record with a win in the javelin.
“It’s a great award,’’ Roones said. “To have it in her memory is wonderful because she was such a terrific athlete. To win it with Claire is great because I think she’s very deserving of it.”
Both girls may have been born long after Rioux died but are aware of her legacy.
“She’s a big Stamford name,’’ Howlett said. “I’ve been hearing her name I started playing sports. Just to be recognized for playing sports is such an honor, because she was such an influential person in the community.”
“I’ve heard about her for so long,’’ Roones said. “My parents talked about her and I’ve seen her banner in the gym. To have our names coupled with her name is great.”
Roones and Howlett are deserving recipients, for their athletic and academic success and community service work. It makes it even better that girls who used to play together with their dolls will share the stage to receive the most prestigious honor for a female scholastic athlete in Stamford.
“Allyson Rioux was such an influential person in Stamford,’’ Howlett said. “It’s just awesome to share it with Steph. I think we both deserve it, and we’ve both worked really hard.”