The Stratford-on-Avon racecourse was waterlogged when the 56th National Cross-Country Championship was run over it on Saturday. A biting wind hampered the competitors for long stretches, with the result that two exceptionally sturdy but little-known runners, H. D. Clark of Yorkshire Harriers, and R. V. Draper, of Hinckley Technical College Athletic Club, finished respectively first and second.
The special correspondent of the 'Times' writes: 'Neither man was able to complete the 10 miles under the hour, as would have been easily possible under normal conditions on such a park-like course, but still an average of a trifle over six minutes a mile on such a day was an heroic achievement. Only two seconds separated Clark and Draper at the finish, and J, Ginty, of Belgrave Harriers, who was one of Great Britain's steeplechase representatives in the Olympic Games, was but another three seconds away, so that the excitement over the closing stages can be easily imagined.'
Additional thrills were provided by an abnormally tense struggle for the team championship, which eventually went to Birchfield Harriers of Birmingham for the 16th time out of 18 since the war, but only after Belgrave Harriers of Wimbledon had grudgingly yielded a lead of 98 points to 102 during the last grim lap of two miles and 330 yards. The final score was Birchfield 90 points, Belgrave 94. Belgrave were unlucky to lose the services of their great runner A. W. Penny, who developed sciatica after the abortive Southern Championship in the wet a fortnight ago. With his support Belgrave would almost certainly have won. J. H. Potts (Saltwell Harriers), the holder, ruined his chances of success by setting too hot a pace from the start. He was clearly full of confidence in his power, and was probably wise to keep in the fore out of the way of the jostling, sliding field, but to be 20 yards ahead on such going after only a mile or two was overdoing things and asking for trouble, which surely enough came in the seventh mile, when he was 'done,' and was passed by Ginty, Clark, Draper and L. H. Weatherill.
Weatherill ran with typically dogged determination, but his bearing again suggested that any match-winning flair he may possess had been whittled away in over-conscientious and laborious training. Though he was always well up, he never looked like winning. Until the last lap Ginty seemed the probable winner, but the going proved too much for his limited physique, when the crucial test came in the finishing straight. J. T. Holden (Tipton Harriers), thrice winner of the International Championship in the last four years, looked less like winning his first National on Saturday than he has for many years, but that by no means rules out his chances in the International at Brussels next Saturday. Probably he again has his eye on this race, and did not punish himself beyond what was necessary to earn a place in the English international side.
G. W. Bailey of Salford Harriers, the British 10-miler, was the freshest man to finish, and with A. Burns (Elswick Harriers), a former National champion, who was too late to start, should prove extremely useful next week-end.