So difficult to understand! When she came a clear first out of the 530 candidates

Hi, please have a look at the passage below:
Ruth Lawrence made history yesterday when she came a clear first out of the 530 candidates who sat the entrance exam for St. Hugh’s College, Oxford. The all-women’s college is likely to offer her a scholarship.

=> I just can’t understand the underlined phrase. What do they mean?

It means Ruth came in (i.e., finished) first among the 530 candidates. She had the highest score.

The word “clear” indicates that her score was so much higher than the next highest score that Ruth was clearly (obviously) the top candidate.

Thanks a lot, Jamie.

[quote=“Jamie (K)”]
It means Ruth came in (i.e., finished) first among the 530 candidates. quote]

=> So is the sentence correct in formal English without “in”?

It sounds a little odd to me also without “in”, but when I google the phrase, I do find am example or two of its use in the UK and New Zealand. The rest of the examples, however, are from Germany, Ukraine and Singapore. We need someone British to tell us whether they’d use the “in” or not.

Thanks a lot, Jamie, so let’s wait for some Britsh people’s ideas :slight_smile: