Ann Johnson

Athlete, Club Manager, WAAA Committee Member

Ann Johnson competed for both Cheshire and Staffordshire – born in Staffs but living in Cheshire both options were open to her – the Midlands and England as a sprinter. 100 yards was her best event, with a personal best 10.9 seconds. She did run 10.6 seconds in Stone over 100 yards, however the race was classed as ‘downhill’ so didn’t count. She attended the training weekends in Brighton, for the 1960 Rome Olympics but was unfortunate not to be selected. She was however part of the City of Stoke Athletic Club 4 x 100 yards team who won the WAAA National Championships in the same year, the first team from outside of London to win the title.

L-R, Ann Johnson (nee Pover). Rosemary Schomer. Len Ward (Coach). Kath Kelsall (nee Degg). Dorothy Window (nee Hindmarsh).
Len Ward was employed by the Stoke on Trent Education department to improve athletics in the city,
he moved from London to take the position.

My early memories of the WAAA were as an athlete during the 1950s, I remember several Staffordshire Officials – Miss Bowie and Miss Martyn Johns on the finish line judging and timekeeping with best coats and hats on, holding their handbags along with stop watches.

As an athlete we were required to take our birth certificates to championship meetings to claim any medals won. To represent the Midlands or WAAA we were asked to take a white vest to run in and we would be given a badge to sew on the front (very different to now).

Ann training with future husband Ernie Johnson.
Ernie was a successful middle-distance runner, then later coach and timekeeper

Ann was Assistant Manager and then Secretary & Manager at Stoke Athletic Club from the mid 1960’s until mid 1980’s when the club moved from Cobridge stadium, a grass track, which was shared by athletics and Greyhounds, to Northwood Stadium, which provided an all-weather tartan track and facilities. Ron Pickering opened Northwood stadium which then became the venue for some big events. 

Ann was Midland Representative to the WAAA Committee from 1979 until the amalgamation of the WAAA and AAA, becoming Midlands Rep to the newly formed Amateur Athletic Association of England, a position which she held until well into the first decade of the twenty-first century.

In the early days we held meetings in the Basil Street Hotel London, at the top of Basil Street was the famous Harrods store which we used to pay a visit to in the lunch breaks. 

I remember at one meeting the Welsh delegates attended and we said goodbye to them as they left to set up their own Welsh AAA.

I also remember during these meetings discussions took place about allowing females to compete in the Pole Vault, Triple Jump, 400 hurdles and distance races longer than 880yards, of course lots of the older committee members were against these dangerous unlady-like events.

Ann and Ernie’s athletic legacy continues through their family. Their daughter followed in Ann’s footsteps, competing at English Schools in 1985 and granddaughter Chloe Esegbona completed at four consecutive English Schools in the 2010s, gaining three medals including gold in the 300m Hurdles 2015.

Ann and Ernie with granddaughter Chloe Esegbona, the third generation of female athletes in the family

All photographs courtesy of the Johnson family.