The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has made some rule changes for track and cross country that could have an effect on high school meets in Mississippi.
NHFS establishes rules for its member organizations, including the Mississippi High School Activities Association. As a member organization, MHSAA must abide by NFHS rules and regulations.
A change that could have an effect on Winona High School is an amendment to Rule 6-2-6 prohibiting athletes form running backward or in the opposite direction during warmup for the long jump, triple jump, pole vault and javelin throw. Track and cross country coach Chris McRae said his long jumpers and triple jumpers pace off in reverse from the take off block to establish their steps.
“You run backwards to get your mark,” McRae said. “If that’s a rule change, we’re going to have to change how we do things.”
A major change increases the baton exchange zone for the 4-by-100 add 4-by-200 relays from 20 to 30 meters. The zone will remain at 20 meters for the two longer relays run in Mississippi, 1600 and 3200. The change should result in far fewer disqualifications for making an exchange outside the zone.
McRae said the change should not affect his relays teams because the goal is to make the exchange as early in the zone as possible. “It’s not going to change the way I do things,” he said. “What you want is for your outgoing runner to get it (the baton) as soon as possible because you want fresh legs running against tired legs.”
Winona relay teams work on handoffs at least twice a week during the track season.
Another rule change amends Rule 4 (Competitors and Competition) and Rule 8 (Cross Country). It reads, “A competitor who provides assistance to an injured or ill competitor should not be disqualified if neither the individual competitor providing the assistance nor his/her team gains an advantage as a result of providing the assistance.”
While the injured or ill competitor is disqualified for receiving help, the competitor helping will not be disqualified, unless that competitor – or his/her team – gains an advantage. In all cases, the final decision rests with the meet referee, who has the sole authority to rule on infractions, irregularities and disqualifications in a meet.
“To me, it’s common sense. It’s an example of sportsmanship,” McRae said NFHS recommends a minimum distance of 100 meters for beginning straightaways on cross country courses. McRae said the beginning straightaway at the Winona course is about 100 meters. He said such a distance is necessary for runners to be spaced out when they hit the first curve.
“It’s such a long distance that by the time they get to the first turn it might not be single file, but it will be only a few wide.”
The start at Choctaw Trails in Jackson, site of MHSAA championship meets, is well over 100 meters, a necessity for class races with more than 100 competitors.
According to the 2017-18 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, track and field is the most popular sport for girls with 488,592 participants and is No. 2 for boys with 600,097. Cross country ranks sixth for girls with 223,518 participants and sixth for boys with 270,095.