The oldest and most Important of our cross country team races was held at Lingfield Park on Saturday. Once again bad weather was experienced, and a satisfactory return cannot be expected. From a sporting point of view, however, the race was fully equal to any of its predecessors, and, if the Highgate Harriers gained the easiest victory on record they did so by means of the finest cross country team that has ever competed in the race. Consistency is their motto. Last year Highgate won the race by scoring 57 points. On Saturday the same six scored 55 points but W. Delaney at last showed true form in a National race, and finishing twelfth, enabled the club to return the low total of 47, winning by 76 points from Crewe Harriers.
The individual race had been regarded as very open in the absence of A. Shrubb. Many were the expressions of sympathy at the illness of the Horsham marvel, and we hope to see him recover in time to represent the Old Country in the New championships. When A. Aldridge arrived on the ground on Saturday, it was seen that he was in the pink of condition, thanks largely to the care of Mr. W. H. Peskett, of Redhill, who was determined that the local runner should be trained to the hour. Another greatly fancied candidate was W. G. Dunkley, of the Alpine H. (Northampton) winner of the Midland Senior and Junior Championships and he also stripped well; but we cannot help thinking that a mistake was made in giving him long and tiring railway journey on the morning of the race. In any case he not quite the same class as Aldridge yet. G. Pearce was a strong fancy for second place, and fully upheld his reputation ; but T. Edwards the Salford flier, proved to be quite out of form, and never made any show at all. On Saturday's running Shrubb would have had to be in his very best form to beat Aldridge; nevertheless, we think he would have done so, and comparison of the times of the most consistent runners in last year's race would seem to prove our contention.
The total number of starters was 126. Rain was falling when President Harry J. Barclay despatched the field to a splendid start. Arthur Goodger, of the Alpine H., at once broke the line, and led out a rare pace for the first 440 yards, but at the turn P. James and E. Gardner took the lead, and the latter at the half-mile led by about ten yards. Just afterwards Deakin and Aldridge went to the front. Passing the stands at 1½ miles, Aldridge led by ten yards from Pearce and Deakin, who were together, with Dunkley, Pickup, Hulford, Hughes, and Horne in a bunch next. Dunkley was seen to be in trouble at this early point, and in the next half-mile Aldridge had got clean away, and was never afterwards approached.
At four miles the order was Aldridge (leading by nearly 100 yards), Pearce, Deakin, and Dunkley (together), Hulford, Horne, Pickup, Hughes, Johnston, Barker (who had lost a shoe), Whiston, Rayner, Gardner, Knott and Bowyer. The teams at this point roughly counted Highgate 66, Crewe 138, Salford 145, Birchfield 149, Herne Hill 161, Farnworth 223, Brighton 228. Highgate had the race in hand, but a fine fight was promised for other positions. Seven miles saw the first six as above, and very few alterations in the first twenty. The Birchfield has nearly crept up to Crewe, when, to their consternation, Frost, who had been 24th, stopped, and Molloy of Herne Hill also retired. The score now was - Highgate 53, Crewe 135, Salford 136, Birchfield 157, Herne Hill 162. In the last lap both Crewe and Birchfield improved but all the Salford men except Pickup lost ground, and Herne Hill just beat them.
Aldridge finished in splendid form, and won by fully 150 yards from G. Pearce, who beat Dunkley by about the same distance. Next came the two Herne Hill men, and with six in the first seven the Southerners may be said to have smothered the North and Midland.
Once more we must notice the absurd rush at the start. No doubt Dunkley's clubmate thought he was doing him a good turn, but we think the Northampton runner's chance was straight away extinguished, for he was in difficulties in the first mile. To finish third under these circumstances is a sufficient criterion of his abilities, and after Aldridge has played second fiddle to Shrubb for so long, Southern sportsmen must be delighted to see him take premier position, and Dunkley's friends ought be satisfied with his splendid running.