AGE GROUP GIRLS and BOYS 5 - 18
What is Cross Country Running?
NEED TRACK AND
Cross country is long-distance running in which teams of runners compete
over open or rough terrain.
The significant difference
between cross-country running and track and field running is the
variability of both weather and footing. The courses may include grass, sand, hills,
mud, woodlands, and water. Although
the distances are generally standardized, courses will vary with each
race. Distances in United States (US) amateur running differ based on
gender and league. An athlete
can compete as an individual,
a team, or both.
Age to start Cross Country Track...
Most elementary schools in the US do not have
cross country teams, but many running clubs exist for
boys and girls of all
ability levels from ages 5 -18.
interference and conflict with athletes competing in school programs,
clubs adjusts their training schedules to fit their
needs. Youth running clubs compete in local,
regional, and national championships sanctioned by the AAU
or USATF. Course distances
vary depending on the age of the athlete. Common championship distances
|| 62 miles
|7 & 8
||1.24 miles (2km)
|9 - 12
||1.86 miles (3km)
|13 & 14
||2.48 miles (4km)
|15 - 18
||3.11 miles (5 km)
Joining a club will give your child an opportunity to meet
others with similar interests, get coaching from experts and establish a
training program. A great place to start to find a credible club is
the USA Track & Field website at
Simply enter your zip code to generate a list of the USATF-registered
clubs in area.
Track and field
clubs offer skills training for children from as early as 5 years old to
the age of 18. Training is for all ability levels and the season consists of practices, local youth track developmental events
and often culminates in national competitions. The national youth competitions start with children as young as 8.
Club programs are
usually comprised of 9 divisions. The athlete’s birth shall determine
the age division that he/she will compete in. Age is
determined by the athlete's age by December 31st. Proof of age is required to
participate in AAU or USATF sanctioned events. Athletes must provide a
copy of the birth certificate that the team must keep on file.
Generally, USATF competitions use 2-year age groups with the youngest 10
and under. AAU meets generally use 1-year age groups with the youngest 8
AAU Junior Olympics Age Groupings for
the 2009 Competition Year
8 & under
||15 & 16
||1993 - 1994
||17 & 18
||1991 - 1992
USATF Junior Olympics Age Groupings for the 2009 Competition Year
10 & under
11 & 12
13 & 14
15 & 16
17 & 18
child reaches middle school in the United states, grades 6 thru 8,
Cross Country is
usually offered as a sport however
youth running clubs are still very dominant in this age
group. The course length varies, as listed above, but middle school
cross country distances are generally around 2 miles for both male and
In high school
cross country races are usually a little over 3 miles. Boys and
girls compete during the same sports season but they are on different
teams: girls varsity, boys varsity, girls junior varsity, boys junior
varsity. High school cross country is a
Scoring in cross
different than any other sport, wherein the less points each team has
On the varsity level,
each team has seven runners competing, but only the top five runners for
each team "score," meaning only their points count. However, the other
two runners are equally important. Referred to as "blockers," they can
often alter the
outcome of a meet by placing in front of the top five "scoring" runners
from other teams, and thus giving other teams more points.
score will be the points equal the place the runner finished in the
race. For example, if a runner were to finish in 2nd place,
that runner would get 2 points. All five runners’ points would be added
up at the end of the race and the team with the least amount of points
is the winner.
A perfect score in cross-country is 15 points; that means your team
"sweeps the race" by finishing in places first through fifth.
Like the varsity team,
on the junior varsity level only the top five runners score. However,
the JV race differs in that there is an unlimited number of runners each
team can have in the race.
What are the governing organizations for track and field?
USA Track and Field
(USATF) is the national governing body for track and field, road
running, cross country running, racewalking, and mountain/ultra/trail
running in the United States.
Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is the world
governing body for track and field.
The National Collegiate Athletic
Association (NCAA) is the organization
through which the nation's colleges and universities govern their
athletics programs .
USA Track and Field
has approximately 57 associations
that organize local, statewide and regional competition and training
events across America.
holds Junior Olympic games
the last week in July
participant record is over 70,000 in track and field events.
also hosts Junior Olympics in cross country, as well as national
championships in track and field, cross country and race walking.
Beyond USATF, a number of other national, regional and state
organizations create track and field and running events throughout the
country and world.
The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), for example,
is one of the
largest, non-profit, volunteer sports organizations in the US dedicated
exclusively to the promotion
development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs. This
hosts hundreds of track and field events each year through its local,
state and regional clubs, as well as national championships and the
The youngest participates are
8 and under
in AAU. The AAU
Junior Olympic Games are known as the largest national multi-sport event
for youth in the United States. It has become the showcase event of the
AAU Sports Program.
The AAU holds Junior Olympic sport games one time each year. For
an athlete to be eligible for this event, they must qualify by ranking
in the top four in a
national event. The AAU Junior Olympics participant count is usually
over 15,500 in twenty two different sporting events, including track and
Youth membership in AAU
or USATF is not required to compete during regular season.
However, membership in USA Track & Field, is a required for an athlete to compete
in the State, Regional, National Junior Olympic meets or the State and
National Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championship meets. Athletes
can either compete as part of team or club or as individual or
membership card cost is about $12-15 dollars.
Young track and
field athletes can participate in both AAU and USATF competitions. There
has been some debate over which organization is 'better'; however,
opinions differ and competition varies from year to year.