Howard Challenge Cup, Women’s 220 yards Championship

The Howard Challenge Cup, presented by The Stadium Club for the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association 220 yards Championship

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

Story of the Event

The Howard Challenge Cup is one of the oldest sporting trophies for women in Britain. It was initially presented by Fred Howard and the Stadium Club for the 220 yards championship and its earliest winners were some of the trailblazing female athletes who were pivotal for the development of the sport in the early days of Women’s Athletics.

The first four winners of the 220 yards title consisted of some of the best athletes of the time, often in more than one discipline and even sport. Mary Lines, winner – although unrecorded on the trophy- of the first championship, won five events in the first Monte Carlo Games, effectively an early World Championships for women, as well as being a member of Britain’s champion basketball team. Lines consistently set world best times in sprint events in the 1920s, including one in the 200m to win the 1922 WAAA title. These would be broken by her successor, Eileen Edwards, who set world bests for three events in 1924, while also representing the English Hockey team. Vera Palmer (later Searle), who would go on to become Honorary Secretary, Chair, and ultimately President of the WAAA, topped British performance lists in four events from 60m to 400 yards in 1925. 

The successor to Edwards’ final WAAA title was the international superstar, Japanese athlete Kinue Hitomi, who on her way to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics took part in six events at the WAAA championships. She won her 220 yards semi-final in world record time, while also taking the javelin title and went on to win silver in the Olympic 800m. Records continued to fall in the WAAA 220 yards, with English athlete Nellie Halstead breaking the world record to win the title in 1930.

The 1928 Olympics at which Hitomi won her 800m silver were significant as the first Games to allow women’s athletics on the programme. Originally promised ten events, by the time of the Games female athletes were only allowed to compete in five events; 100m, 800m, high jump, discus, and 4 x 100m relay. Britain boycotted, refusing to send a women’s team in protest at the restricted number of events available. Women’s 220 yards was not included on the Olympic programme until 1948 when, Audrey Williamson finished in second place, mirroring her performance in that year’s Women’s Amateur Athletics Association (WAAA) championships.

British Olympic success in the 200m continued in 1960 with a bronze medal for Dorothy Hyman, winner of four WAAA titles. One of the greatest British sprinters, Hyman broke the 4 x 100m world record as part of the England team at the Commonwealth Games of 1958, won silver and bronze at the 1960 Olympics, and became double Commonwealth champion in 1962. She was also part of the sprint relay squad which won bronze in the 1964 Olympic Games. Continuing this tradition, Kathy Cook won a bronze medal at the inaugural World Championships in 1983. Not to mention, her achievements must be considered in the context of the performance enhancers, used by many other medallists at the time. The 1993 and 1994 champions would feature in one of the most famous Olympic finals of all time, the 400m at the Sydney Olympics. Here, Cathy Freeman lived up to her billing as the face of the Games, finishing ahead of one of Britain’s most prodigious sprint talents, Katharine Merry.

Photo credit: David Rowan

The Donor

The Stadium Club, noted on the inscription as donating the trophy with Fred Howard in 1924, also provided the cup for the men’s putting the weight, or as we would know it, the shot putt competition in the same year.

The Stadium Club itself, which was situated on High Holborn, London, was best known as boxing venue by the early twentieth century, although it had started life in 1867 as the New Royal Amphitheatre. A music hall and amphitheatre, with an equestrian ring in the centre of the building with stalls and balcony surrounding, it operated as a theatre for twenty years, staging operettas, ballet, dramas and circus acts, while undergoing numerous changes of both management and name in the process, before being converted into the West Central Hall, then the Holborn Stadium, and finally, the Stadium Club, whose members were more inclined towards sport than theatre.

The building was destroyed by a Nazi bomb in February 1941.

History of the Trophy

WAAA champions in the 220 yards (1922-1932; 1952-1967) or 200 metres (1933-1951; 1968-1995) received this trophy from 1924, although the event was contested from 1922.  Since 2010 the trophy has been presented to the winner of the England Senior Championships 200m. 

Previous Winners

1924 Miss E. Edwards1951 S. Cheeseman1973 Helen Golden
1925 Vera Palmer1952 S. Cheeseman1974 (R. Boyle)*
1926 Vera Palmer1953 A. Johnson1975 Helen Golden
1927 Miss E. Edwards1954 A. Johnson1976 D. Ramsden
1928 K. Hitomi1955 J. Scrivens1977 S. Lannaman
1929 W. Weldon1956 J. Paul1978 K. Smallwood
1930 N. Halstead1957 H. Young1979 K. Smallwood
1931 N. Halstead1958 H. Young1980 K. Smallwood
1932 N. Halstead1959 D. Hyman1981 S. Lannaman
1933 Miss E.M. Hiscock1960 D. Hyman1982 K. Smallwood
1934 N. Halstead1961 Smart1983 M. Scutt
1935 Miss E.M. Hiscock1962 D. Hyman1984 K. Cook
1936 B. Burke1963 D. Hyman1985 K. Cook
1937 L. Chalmers1964 D. Arden1986 S. Jacobs
1938 D. Saunders1965 J. Simpson1987 J. Baptiste
1939 L. Chalmers1966 J. Simpson1988 S. Jacobs
1945 W.S. Jordan1967 K. Cornelissen1989 P. Dunn
1946 Miss S. Cheeseman1968 Val. Peat1990 J. Stoute
1947 S. Cheeseman1969 D. Hyman1991 S. Douglas
1948 S. Cheeseman1970 M.A. Critchley1992 M. Gainsford
1949 S. Cheeseman1971 S. Berto1993 C. Freeman
1950 D.G. Manley1972 Donna Murray1994 K. Merry
  1995 C. Murphy
2010 B. Wilson2013 A. Onuora2016 K. Baptiste
2011 L. Turner2014 J. Williams2017 K. Baptiste
2012 S. Papps2015 J. Williams2018 K. Baptiste
  2019 K. Baptiste

*N.B. Names are as recorded on the trophy and are not always as recorded elsewhere.  Raelene Boyle’s (AUS) victory is not recorded on the trophy for 1974 and is included here bracketed with an asterisk.  The winners of the 1922 and 1923 championships were Mary Lines and Eileen Edwards respectively.