This, as might be supposed, leads to frequent accidents, and is the chief source of danger in hurdling. In his anxiety to take the hurdle closely, the hurdler sometimes jumps too low and strikes the hurdle; the result in many cases being a heavy fall on the cinder-path. But it takes a strong knock to tumble, or even to stagger, an experienced hurdler. Indeed, the best hurdlers have been known to win races in which they struck nearly every hurdle, and even knocked down a number as they went along.

A. A. Jordan, the celebrated hurdler of the New York Athletic Club, contracted the habit of striking hurdles to an extreme degree. Yet this did not seem to interfere in the least with his success; nor did it mar the beauty of his style, which was perhaps better than that of any hurdler who had then appeared in America. He was the first exponent of the peculiar finished style that has been adopted by so many leading hurdlers of to-day; and, indeed, he might perhaps be called the "Father of American Hurdling." He and Copeland of the Manhattan Athletic Club were at one time the best-known hurdlers in America, and their struggles for supremacy have been hard-fought and brilliant.

Hurdling on Skates in Canada.

Hurdling on Skates in Canada.

After a hurdler has perfected his style, and is in the pink of condition, all ready for the race, there is no prettier sight on the athletic field than to see him taking a practice-spin over the whole flight of hurdles. True and strong in his motions, running and jumping with all his might, he yet rises and falls lightly as a bird, handling himself so gracefully withal, that, to a mere observer, the sport appears to be without difficulty.

The real question of supremacy each year concerns only three or four hurdlers, who make the great championship struggle. All the others can expect only lesser honors, though always there are many who have secret hopes of improving sufficiently to enter the first rank. In order to provide opportunity and incentive for the mass of athletes of no special distinction, numerous handicap races are held, in which the different competitors are allowed starts according to their supposed abilities. Of course there is no great interest at stake in these games beyond the individual desire to win. Even for the novice the honor of victory is much diminished on account of the handicap in his favor; and among athletes the winning or losing in such cases is con-sidered of less importance than the merit of the performances. But for all that, there is always a certain satisfaction in being victorious; and the prizes given, in themselves, make success worth striving for.

From this fact there is quite a large class of athletes, called "mug-hunters," who have no further ambition than to win as many of these handicap games as possible. As it is essential to their success that they should have big handicaps, they use every means to conceal their true ability, whatever it may be, and always take pains to win a race by no more than is absolutely necessary. Fortunately, however, such athletes are hardly more than tolerated; and the name "mug-hunter" has come to be used as a term of reproach.

A handicap hurdle-race, although there are no great interests at stake, is a very pretty sight. When the contestants take their positions for the race, it looks like a hopeless struggle for the "scratch" man (that is, the one who stands farthest back of all the contestants, and who allows " starts" to all the others. He is called the "scratch" man because he toes the "scratch," or line, at the beginning of the course). Often he is small in stature, as is Copeland, for instance; and when he stands there with the other contestants, many of them larger and stronger than he, and some of them ten or fifteen yards in advance of him, the arrangement appears altogether unfair, and the spectator, who is likely to regard the "scratch" man's chance as hopeless, is filled with sympathy for him. When all is ready, the starter calls out, "On your marks!" All stand upright in their positions. "Settle." They all lean forward, ready for the start. "Bang!" goes the pistol, and they are off! The leaders are almost to the second hurdle before the "scratch" man reaches the first; it seems impossible that he should overtake them. But now see skill and speed tell. While they rush and jump clumsily and high, lumbering along with all their might, truly and prettily he skims the hurdles and flies over the ground. Yet the handicap seems too large, and they are three-quarters through the race before he has had time even to close up the gap between himself and the man nearest him. As they draw closer to the finish, his speed seems to increase; and he shoots by them one by one, until, when the last hurdle is reached, he is abreast of the leader. Then with a burst of speed he rushes for the tape, and wins the race!

The Scratch Man at the Finish.

The " Scratch " Man at the Finish.

Of course the "scratch" man does not always win; but if he is in his best condition, he is not likely to be beaten. At all events he is sure to give a fine exhibition, because to be "scratch" he must be a good hurdler, and often he is the champion.

Far greater, however, in real interest than any handicap event are the great "scratch" races of the year, the amateur championships and the intercolle-giates, where only the best of amateur and college hurdlers compete, and all start even. The intercollegiate contests are, perhaps, even more exciting than the championships, because college rivalries, as well as those of friends and contestants, are concerned in the result. For some five months each representative has been faithfully training in preparation for the great race that lasts only a few seconds. A single misstep, and he feels that all the work goes for nothing; his college may lose the cup, and there is a year's disappointment before him.

It is no wonder that the boys are nervous as they take their places and wait for the start. But when once the signal is given and they are off, all is forgotten; the race has begun, and every one flies over the hurdles, conscious only that the supreme moment has come, and that he is rushing on for victory.


Intercollegiate Champion at the High Hurdles, 1888-89.