Revisiting the rivalry

A brief history of the Duckworth Challenge

Next week, the 24th annual Duckworth Challenge will commence, as the Winnipeg Wesmen will visit Manitoba in women’s soccer. Due to the timing, it seems like the perfect opportunity to provide a small background on the Duckworth Challenge, for students who may not know its history and why it has such a special meaning, both from a rivalry and school perspective.

The Duckworth Challenge is named after Henry E. Duckworth (1915-2008), who was born in Brandon and grew up in both Transcona and St. James. He graduated from Wesley College (now part of the University of Winnipeg) with a bachelor of arts in 1935, and then obtained both a bachelor of science (1936), and a teaching certificate (1937) from the University of Manitoba. After teaching in Stonewall from 1938-40, he travelled to Chicago, where he obtained a PhD in physics.

He returned to Manitoba in 1945, where he began his career as a professor in physics, at the U of M. During his time, he became one of Canada’s foremost scientists – specifically in the study of atomic masses.

In 1971, he became the second President of the U of W – a job he thoroughly enjoyed and stuck with until his retirement in 1981. Duckworth continued to be active in the university scene after his retirement, and was elected chancellor of the U of M in 1986, where he served until 1992.

During that same year, Duckworth, a devoted fan of university sports, introduced the Duckworth Challenge, an annual series of games between various sports teams at the U of M and U of W. The event offers an opportunity for friendly competition between the cross-town rivals.

There are three sports involved in the Duckworth Challenge: volleyball, basketball, and soccer. Last year was the first year soccer was incorporated into the series. Manitoba has a winning record in the Duckworth Challenge’s 23-year history, with a total of 12 wins, six losses, and five draws (when soccer wasn’t involved).

The overall record for Manitoba in all games is 52-39. Soccer stands at 1-0, basketball is 17-27 (women’s 7-15, men’s 10-12), and volleyball’s record is 34-12 (women’s 17-6, men’s 17-6). The Bisons swept the 23rd Duckworth Challenge, winning in all three sports. It was only the fourth sweep in the 23-year history.

One of best aspects of the Duckworth Challenge is the ability of students from either university to travel to every game, due to the schools’ relative proximity to each other. Having more students pack into the gym and onto the field increases the energy.

As mentioned previously, women’s soccer starts things off this weekend on Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. at the West Turf Field. Men’s and women’s volleyball keep things rolling on Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. for the women and 8 p.m. for the men, at Investors Group Athletic Centre.

Men’s and women’s basketball finish things off the next night, on Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. for the women, and 8 p.m. for the men. Those two games will take place at the Dr. David F. Anderson Gym at the U of W.
Tickets are only $2 for students at either university for any Duckworth Challenge game, so be sure to try and make it out, and support your Bison student athletes.