Frequently Asked Questions: Track & Field

How do I become a certified Official?

There are two things you have to do. First, you have to attend a short (approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour) rules interpretation meeting that are held at various high schools in the spring. You will then be given a rule book and a test to take on your leisure at home. After completing, mailing in and passing this test, you become a certified official in Maryland for cross country and track & field. You will then be able to officiate at any regional or state championship if you so choose.

How many False Starts do athletes get?

An athlete is disqualified after one false start.

Are races ever re-run?

In distance races, if an athlete falls within the first 50 meters caused by contact by another runner, they will fire the gun again to re-run the race. This, however, must be done in a reasonable time. A race will not be restarted, however, if an athlete merely slips.

In the 2004 Indoor Maryland state Championships, during the 3200 the officials mixed up the laps and each athlete ran the incorrect number of laps. They determined that the race had to be re-run the next day. In the 2002 Middle Atlantic Conference College outdoor Track & Field Championships a runner during the 200 went out of her lane into another lane disrupting another runner. It was ruled that the runner that was cut off would have a chance to run the 200 again, while the other runner was disqualified. Only the runner that was cutoff had the opportunity to run again.

There are instances when this can come up, as you can see. Rule 3.4.3 states: "The referee has the sole authority to determine if a race shall be rerun, and if so, who is eligible to participate in the rerun and when it should be scheduled."

How are ties broken in various events?

   Jumping Event - Rule 7.3.2 When there is a tie at any height or distance in the finals of a jumping event, the places and points scored shall be awarded as follows: 

  • For places determined by distance:
    • If the distance resulting from the best performance of competitors is identical, the higher place is awarded to the tying competitor whose second best performance is                     better from either the preliminary trials or the finals.
    • If after (a1) the tie remains, the higher place is awarded to the tied competitor whose third-best performance is better than the third-best performance of any tied                     competitor, etc. 
  • For places determined by height:
    1. The competitor with the fewest number of trials for the height at which the tie occurs, i.e., the last height successfully cleared, shall be awarded the higher place.
    2. If the tie still remains, the competitor with the fewest total number of unsuccessful trials throughout the competition, up to and including the height last cleared, shall be                    awarded the higher place.
    3.  Passed trials shall not count as misses.
    4.  If the tie remains after applying (1) and (2) and: 
      1. If it concerns first place, the competitors tying shall make one more attempt at
      2. the height at which they failed. If no decision is reached, the bar shall be lowered in increments of 1 inch in the high jump and 3 inches in the pole vault. If two ore more of the tying contestants cleared the height, the bar shall be raised by intervals of 1 inch in the high jump and 3 inches in the pole vault. Each competitor shall attempt one trial at each height until a winner is determined. 

                       Note 1: If the height which the tied competitors last attempted is not the same,                             because of a passed height by one or more of the remaining competitors, the                             bar shall be lowered to the lowest height last attempted by any of the                             remaining competitors to begin the jump-off 
                       Note 2: No passed heights shall be permitted in the jump-offs. 
                       b)  If the tie concerns any place other than first, the competitors shall be awarded                             the same place.
   Throwing Event - Rule 6.3.2 When there is a tie for any place in the finals of a throwing event,    places and points scored shall be awarded as follows: 
         a.  For places determined by distance: 
               1.  If the distance resulting from the best performance of competitors is identical, the                     higher place is awarded to the tying competitor whose second best performance is                     better from either the preliminary trials or the finals. 
               2.  If after (a1) the tie remains, the higher place is awarded to the tied competitor                     whose third-best performance is better than the third-best performance of any tied                     competitor, etc.
   Running Event - Interesting to note, from a mathematical perspective, it is impossible for two    objects to arrive at the same point at the exact same time. Now this difference may not be    recognizable by the naked eye, and the decision is left up to the finish line judges. Often times    FAT (fully automatic timing) equipment is used which can magnify what is unseen to the naked    eye to determine race winners. But as stated by the rules: Rule 5.8.3: " A tie in a running    event occurs when two or more competitors cross the finish line simultaneously, or when two    or more competitors or relay teams running in separate sections, finish with identical times."

Why can't I video tape my son's performance and play it back during the meet?

Rule 4.5.9g states: 
   It is an unfair act when a competitor receives assistance from any other person that could improve that competitor's performance. Assistance Includes: 
         a.  Interference with another competitor 
         b.  Pacing by a teammate or persons not participating in the event. 
         c.  Competitors joining or grasping hands with each other during a race. 
         d.  Competitor using an aid during the race. 
         e.  Communicating with a competitor through the use of a wireless device. 
         f.  Coaching a competitor from a restricted area. 
         g.  A competitor views a videotape or any other visual reproduction of the competitor's performances prior to the completion of the competition.

Can runners wear watches during a race?

There is no rule against wearing a watch in a race, however, some teams will not allow this ( Liberty High School for instance) because it is distracting and the athlete should be focusing on the race not their wrist.

My son is on a relay. Is it true that he can be disqualified if his uniform does not match the others on his relay team?

Yes. Take a look at Rule 4.5

          In relay races and Cross Country competition, each team member shall wear the same           color and design of school uniform (jersey and shorts). Any visible shirt(s) worn under the           jersey and other visible apparel worn under the short must be unadorned and of a single           (and the same) color. Visible items worn under both the jersey and the short do not have           to be the same color. If worn by more than one team member (two or more) that apparel           must be the same color, but not necessarily the same length. 
          PENALTY: (All articles) For an illegal uniform the competitor is disqualified from           the event.

Do all Maryland High School Teams Pole Vault?

2003 was a very sad year for our sport. Several athletes including a very good athlete at Penn State University were killed while vaulting. In response to this, the MD High School Athletic Association developed strict guidelines for the event - including who can coach it and the mats that are utilized in protecting the athletes. Some schools do not have the mats or coaches approved for the event. These schools are not permitted to participate in the event.

I was at a meet and they made an announcement asking all coaches on the Appeals Committee to come to the finish line. What was all that about?

I think the best way to understand this rule, is to describe the entire Jury of Appeals as stated by NFHS Track and Field Rules 
          Rule 3.5 
                ART. 1 . . . A jury of appeals, if appointed, shall serve as the final board of appeals. 
                ART. 2 . . . A coach first appeals to the referee. If the coach still feels that the terms and conditions of competition or the application of the rules have been misapplied or                 misinterpreted, a written appeal shall be made to the jury. 
                ART . 3 . . . Situations which are subject to appeal include, but are not limited to: 
                     a.  Misapplication of the rules which must be filed within 30 minutes after the  announcement of event results. 
                     b.  Correction of clerical or team scoring errors which may be corrected up to 48 hours after the end of the meet, unless another time period is specified in                           advance by the games committee or meet director. 
                     c.  Correction of meet results involving an ineligible participant which may be made at any time when discovered. 
                     d.  Failure to follow a procedure contained in the terms and conditions of competition announced in advance by the games committee or meet director. This would include such items as the time schedule, the number of qualifiers to advance, number of trials, etc. 
                ART. 4 . . . Non-appealable situations: 
                     a.  Any judgment decision pertaining to violations or alleged violations of the rules. 
                     b.  A decision made by the finish judges or times that does not involve misapplication of a rule, or the terms and conditions of competition. 
                     c.  Whether a start is fair and legal.

My daughter runs the hurdles. If she bumps into someone while jumping over the hurdles, can she be disqualified?

They are only DQ'd if the other hurdler is disadvantaged. Bumps are okay if no one is affected. Rule 5.13.2 states that a competitor is disqualified if they impede another runner.

Also in the Hurdles, why don't athletes just plow right over the hurdles rather than jump over them?

They would be disqualified if they did. Again Rule 5.13.2 says a competitor is disqualified if they do not attempt to clear the hurdle or if they deliberately knock down any hurdle by hand or foot.

What Races are run in lanes?

Each meet can be set up differently, and we will tell you basic trends you will see at meets. This is never set in stone, and is up to the meet director on how they will organize it.

Hurdle and sprint events (55 meters, 100 Meter, 200 Meter, 400 Meter) are run in lanes. The sprint relays (sprint medley, 4 X 100 & 4 X 200) are run in lanes as well. The 4 X 400 in Outdoor Track, the first lap, or leg, of the relay is run in lanes, after that, all runners can break towards the inside lane if they are clear of other runners (can do so with out interfering). The 4x400 in Indoor Track, each leg typically runs two laps, and the leadoff leg must run the first lap in their lane, then they can cut in after the second turn. This is typically how the 300 and 500 during indoor track is run also. Some of the longer races (800 and 1600) will require runners to run in lane for a short distance before allowing them to break towards the inside lane. Whenever you see runners starting in a stagger at the start, those runners will have to stay in their lanes for a certain distance. This is done to ensure greater safety for the runners and a less pushing and shoving at the start of a race.

Are Tactics Used in the Longer races?

A distance race on the track is not always won by the fastest runner. Often times it is won by the smartest runner. Decisions are made on when to put surges in, when to start a kick, how fast to start the race, and many other ways. The same strategy won't work in every race, and the best strategy is dependent on who is in the race. One tactic you will often see in a distance race is a runner passing an opponent as they come out of a turn. They use the energy they gained during the turn to whip them past their opponent. In longer races, you will often times see the best runners try to slowly pick up the pace each lap, wearing down on the field, and reducing the group that is able to stay in contact. This strategy can wear down opponents without them even realizing it. There can be a lot to a distance race that has many experienced runners in it. The games they will play, the strategy they will use, and all of them believe, that what they are doing gives them the best chance to win.

How can teammates work together in longer races?

There are several ways teammates can work together in a race. One of the biggest is the mental edge it can play for them. Running a race can sometimes feel you are out there on your own. When you have someone there with you, someone you train with each day, it inspires you to keep working harder. As a competitor, when two runners from the same team are racing you, it is demoralizing. Now you not only feel alone, you are also outnumbered. One of the best things teammates do when they race together is making moves at the same time. When one teammate passes a runner, the other one puts in a surge at the same time. Suddenly the runner they have passed thinks there race is falling apart, and may give up. You have now beaten them, without even getting to the finish line. Having a teammate there is also encouraging. When we race, we have highs and lows. Every great race has a point where your body feels it needs to slow down. That is when the great race is made, when the athlete is able to pull through that tough period, because they know a better period in the race is coming. With a teammate with you, they can help an individual pull through a tough period in a race. So often will you see in a race, an individual is struggling, but finds a way to stick with a teammate, then suddenly, a few laps later, they find a second wind and end up with the best race of their career.

My son asked me to go across the track and yell his splits to him in the 800 meter. Is this allowed?

Although at one time it was illegal to call out splits, this is no longer the case. So go ahead and yell out those splits for your son.