Track and Field Points of Emphasis

By NFHS on February 10, 2021 Track & Field/Cross Country Print

NOTE: Due to the cancellation of spring sports last year because of the Coronavirus, the 2020 NFHS Track and Field Rules will be used for the 2021 season. The Points of Emphasis written last year will apply for the 2021 season. These points, which all reference the 2020 NFHS Track and Field/Cross Country Rules Book, will be in effect for the 2021 season.

Meet Administration

Providing a quality experience to track and field athletes, coaches, and spectators does not happen by accident. Many months of pre-planning and execution have occurred before the event is finalized and the first event begins.

Most standardized checklists include foundational topics such as: establishing entry limitations and substitution deadlines, securing meet personnel, developing a meet schedule, and preparing the facility to host the event. Quality meet administrators know and understand that while covering these essential items is certainly necessary and appropriate, the ability to drill down to the smallest details is equally important and critical for ensuring success.

While not included on most checklists, pay special attention to the following items as they can dictate the success or failure of your event:

  • NFHS Rule 3-1-1 gives authority to the meet director to establish a custodian of awards. Double check prior to your event that the appropriate awards have been ordered and are available. This critical step will save you embarrassment in the moments and time after the event.
  • NFHS Rule 3-4-7 allows the meet referee the authority to delegate the responsibility of counting laps for any race of two laps or more. Whomever is assigned to this duty must be confident and knowledgeable regarding counting laps and the likelihood of dealing with the potential for lapped runners. This is not a duty for a novice official or volunteer.
  • NFHS Rule 3-5-3 outlines the situations that are eligible to protest/appeal. It is imperative that coaches understand the appeal structure and its available options. Having a clear and concise protocol that is delineated to coaches prior to the start of the event will pay benefits.
  • NFHS Rule 3-18-3 designates the responsibility for ensuring that each flight of hurdles is set at proper height and prescribed point prior to each race. While moving hurdles on-and-off the track efficiently is essential, the system used to double check height and placement is also critical.
  • NFHS Rule 3-18-4 outlines the responsibilities of the block chief. Assigning an individual(s) responsible to ensure that starting blocks are in good working order, are located at the starting line of each race, and removed after the start is one less responsibility usually placed on the starter or assistant starter.
  • NFHS Rule 5-11-1 requires that in any relay race, a team must start and end the race with the same baton. Meet administrators should consider a system (color, number, etc.) that, if necessary, can assist officials in determining that the correct baton has been used by any team finishing a race.
  • NFHS Rule 6-5-3 dictates that state associations determine their own procedures regarding verification that a pole vaulter participates on a legal pole. For those states that use some type of on-site weigh-in procedure for this verification process, it is important that the scale used to determine body weight is certified as accurate considering it will determine which pole(s) the athlete is eligible to use during the competition.

Putting on a quality track and field event is not easy. Do not let addressing the most obvious elements overshadow the less obvious during your planning.

Exchange Zone

 Recent changes within multiple track and field rules codes regarding the definition of relay exchange zones prompted the rules committee to adjust NFHS exchange zone rules.

The rule change does not require that tracks be repainted or resurfaced in order to be in compliance with NFHS rules. There is no immediate cost to schools as the current track markings can be utilized with minor modifications.

The acceleration zone is now incorporated into the exchange zone, thus creating a 30-meter exchange zone. Existing acceleration zone markings (triangles, squares) or colored tape placed at that location, may be used to denote the beginning of the exchange zones on a track.

In sprint relays such as the 4x100 meter and 4x200 meter, and other relays with legs of 200 meters or less, the outgoing runner, while waiting for the baton, must be positioned entirely inside the 30-meter exchange zone.

The exchange zones for relay races with legs more than 200 meters are not impacted by this rule change.

Assisting Injured Athletes

NFHS rules in track and field and cross country outline that it is an unfair act when a competitor receives any assistance.

Previous changes to NFHS cross country rules created the exception that allows a competitor to assist an injured or ill competitor without being disqualified when medical staff is not present at the event because, in a clear majority of these types of situations, the action is intended to be an act of good sportsmanship and not an attempt to circumvent the rules. This same rule now applies to both sports and has been modified to include those situations in which medical assistance may be at the event but is not readily available to assist the injured or ill competitor.

The competitor who receives aid will be disqualified, but when no advantage is gained the competitor assisting should not be penalized for exhibiting good sportsmanship.

The final decision in these situations rests with the meet referee who has sole authority to rule on infractions, irregularities and disqualifications in a meet.