Huntsman Rory Fraser and Senior Whip Ralph Wade lead the way at the start of the New Boys' Race
Saturday afternoon blessed Shrewsbury School with beautiful sunshine as the Third Form assembled for their New Boys' Race. Mercifully though, conditions were much cooler than last year and with little wind, it looked as if everything was in place for a great contest.
As boys nervously pinned numbers to each other's shirts in the few minutes leading up to the race, equally nervous housemasters were sounding each other out as to whether they thought they might have a chance this year of breaking Rigg's recent stranglehold. Nobody seemed to know: it was anybody's race.
Huntsman Rory Fraser, looking resplendent in full kit including black velvet cap, red top and (crucially) the ancient bugle and whip, led the boys round Alington Hall in a brief warm-up before sending them off to the start line on Central. Once Mr Haworth had explained the course, duties were handed back to Rory to sound the old cry of 'All hounds who wish to run, run hard, run true, and may the Devil take the hindmost!' A quick toot on the bugle and the entire pack of boys immediately charged in his direction, and would follow him (as 'hare') the entire way round the one-and-a-half-mile course known to Salopians for generations as the 'Benjy' (so named to irritate the Headmaster, Benjamin Kennedy, who loathed running and wanted it banned!).
An early lead was taken by Owen Mock of Rigg's Hall, closely followed by George Garrett of Churchill's. The first ten places remained fairly spread out in a first half of the race which was cautiously paced. Speed was built up down Oldham's Gap however, and the second half saw the leaders move through the gears. Further down the field, there were some fantastic battles going on as everyone fought to be as high up the field as possible, knowing that it could make the difference for their House.
Parents, staff and pupils gathered expectantly around Main School Building hoping to catch a glimpse of the leading runner as he rounded Chapel, and as Owen and George came into view they began to put on a sprint for the line. Owen was marginally too strong for George to pass though, and a fantastic race was won for the third year in a row by a Riggite. Will Blanchard-Butter was only a few seconds behind to take the bronze medal for Moser's Hall, with fellow Moserite Artyom Kutovoy soon after that in fourth. A full twenty-one runners managed to cross the line in under ten minutes, which shows that there is a great deal of talent among this crop of 'New Boys'.
As the rest of the field came home, housemasters once again began chattering nervously about potential House victors. It seemed fairly evenly spread, with no obvious domination by any one house.
A few minutes later, clutching the results in his hand, Mr Haworth spoke to the exhausted athletes about how impressed he'd been by the level of commitment shown across the board. Everyone, it seemed, had really given their best effort. And so to the results: once the individual runners had been congratulated and medals issued, third place in the House event was announced as won by Ridgemount, with 93 points. Only a couple of points ahead were Rigg's in second with 91, but the winning house this year (and for the first time in a number of years) went to Moser's Hall, winning convincingly in the end by 18 points (a total of 73). Congratulations to them and to the beaming Dr Pattenden!
This really was a superb effort by this new Third Form, and well done to everyone who took part with such enthusiasm. Hopefully this is just the start of many glittering Hunt careers among our new cohort of Salopians. Thanks to all the staff and boys – in particular the grounds staff and marshalls along the route – who enabled this race to happen.
Note: Hunt training for the Third and Fourth Form takes place every Thursday at 5pm; meet at the Stott Pavilion.
Below (l to r): Owen Mock crosses the finish line in 1st place just ahead of George Garrett; the victorious Moser's team; sprinting for the finish line.