Helias’ Dowden, Shimkus honored

The Helias girls tennis team has a pair of awards coming its way.

Both sophomore player Ashley Dowden and coach Margaret Shimkus got some good news earlier this month when they learned they had been honored by the United States Tennis Association.

Dowden was selected as one of the sportsmanship award winners handed out for the girls 16’s division of the USTA/Missouri Valley Missouri District.

Shimkus said Dowden is well-deserving of the honor, which covered her comportment during the USTA season, but has also been on display during the high-school season.

“She’s a gem, she’s a class act,” Shimkus said. “... As soon as she would get done (with her high-school matches), she’d be cheering her teammates on. During practice, she’d always be helping the other ones and giving advice. She’s a selfless athlete, and very coachable.

“She’s so deserving. She’s always friendly with everyone and I can see why she would get the sportsmanship award. It’s not just for our season, when she was winning a lot more. In the USTA (season), you don’t always win, and she still had that sportsmanship.”

Shimkus, meanwhile, has been named by the district as one of the 2013 Outstanding Contributors to USTA Youth Tennis. It honors her work as the director of the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation’s summer youth program.

“I was shocked,” Shimkus said. “All I did was stay positive. Just like this (high-school) season, I just tried to keep it fun and energized.

“Keeping the little kids having a good time and being interested, that’s all it was about. I’m hoping that program in the summer with the little kids grows a lot more. They need to get some boys out. We have mostly girls, and I did have a few really good followers with the boys, just not enough numbers.”

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