At Dunstall Park Racecourse, Wolverhampton, on Saturday, the twenty-eighth annual race for the National Cross-Country Championship was carried through in the most successful fashion. On Thursday and Friday a lot of snow had fallen in the district, but under the influence of a heavy thaw the white mantle had cleared away, while a fresh breeze on Saturday morning had a drying influence on the course. Though sticky, the going was by no means heavy and everything pointed to a great race.
The weather was of a highly favourable character, but despite the fact that there were no counter-attractions in the district, the attendance was not large, only 1,500 being present. Anticipations of good race were fully realized, though once again Shrubb proved that he is on a pinnacle by himself as a runner across country. From the very outset almost, the famous South London Harrier took the lead which he held quite comfortably right to the finish, winning by fully 600 yards.
Passing the Grand Stand in the finishing straight the victor was loudly cheered, and Shrubb replied by sprinting over the last 100 yards, finishing as fresh almost as when he started.
Aldridge ran in game style, but looked a trifle distressed at the close, while Pearce who was about twenty yards behind his clubmate, ran a fine race. After covering six miles the Highgate Harriers were so well placed that they seemed certain to claim the championship, and, pulling well together, the club won comfortably, beating Birchfield by 40 points. The race is fully described below.
All the clubs entered put in an appearance and the presence of the two French teams invested the race with an unusual amount of interest. Chatting with the different runners prior to the start all the seemed in the best of fettle, the foreigners particularly being keen on the struggle. Lining up for the start the sight was a pretty one, and immediatlely the official in charge, Mr. Eggleston, gave the runners the signal the spectators cheered as the competitors bounded round the racecourse. Soon after starting Shrubb forged to the front, with Aldridge in hot pursuit, an Pearce a few yards behind. After covering one circuit of the racecourse - a distance of about 1 mile and a half - the leaders passed the judges again, Shrubb being at this stage ten yards ahead of Aldridge, while Pearce was an equal distance in the rear, followed by Lawson, who was about two yards further away.
The came Deakin (Herne Hill), his clubmate, F. James and several of the Highgate men all together. Thus early a tail quite a quarter of a mile long had been formed, while C. Palis of Crewe and F. Sanders of South London H., did not take any further part in the contest. Shrubb was in great form, and passing out into the open a steep hill had to be negotiated. Up this the champion sprinted and soon widened the gap between himself and Aldridge although the last named was sticking to his guns in plucky style. Day, Whittle and the French champion Ragueneau, were also travelling in good fashion at this stage. Six hundred yards of plough had to be traversed, but Shrubb waded through this at great pace and on entering the extreme end of the racecourse again, when 5 miles had been negotiated, the South London Harrier held a lead of 200 yards from Aldridge. Passing the grand stands the champion was loudly applauded, and at this point, distance six miles, the leaders time was 30 min. 35 sec., Aldridge being 250 yards in the rear, while Pearce was was 50 yards further away. The three front men did not seem at all fagged, Shrubb in fact, looking as fresh as at the start. After a gap of 300 yards came Marsh (Salford), Horne (Highgate), Meacham (Birchfield), Day (Birchfield), Barker (Salford), Whiston (Crewe), Webber (Crewe), Hughes (Farnworth), Lawson (Leeds), Johnston (Highgate), Hall (Salford), Hickman (Birchfield), James (Heren Hill), Whittle (Farnworth) and Wooley (Highgate), all close behind each other.
The tail was now quite a mile long, Marchais (France) and Titley (South London) bringing up the rear. At this particular stage Highgate were remarkbly well placed, have six men in the first thirty-four, Birchfield had six in the first fifty, Farnworth coming next. The Highgate men were going well, and seemed almost certain winners. Thus early the foreigners were out of the hunt and at this stage the leading Frenchmen held the thirty-first position. Shrubb tackled the outlying country in masterly style, never being at all pressed. Entering the racecourse again, with a mile to go, he held the commanding lead of fully 400 yards. A mighty shout went up as Shrubb entered the finishing straight, and in answer to this the champion springted for the last one hundred yards, finishing quite fresh fully 500 yards in front of Aldridge. The last-named, though fagged, sprinted at the finish, and Pearce also came with a rattle in the last fifty yards.
Six Highgate men finished in the first seventeen, and the championship was early settled, Birchfield being 40 points behind the leaders. Shrubb's victory, the fourth in succession, was a highly popular one, while Aldridge and Pearce both came in for a warm ovation at the close. The excellent form of the Highgate men bore out our prediction in Saturday's Sporting Life, while we also named Aldridge as next to certain to be Shrubb's most dangerous rival. Lawson, of Leeds, did not stay the pace so well as expected.