NFHS Makes Rule Changes For Track And Field, Cross Country

* Tavon Underwood starts at the Colorado State Championships. New NFHS rule revisions include more detailed language on officiating false starts in high school track and field.

Photo Credit: Bobby Reyes/MileSplit Colorado

- - -

At its June meeting in Indianapolis, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Track and Field Rules Committee recommended 11 rule changes for track and field/cross country to take effect beginning with the 2024 season.

Revisions include significant and more detailed language related to false starts, along with various other rule additions for events on both the track and in the field.

Some of the most significant changes come to offer clearer guidance for officiating false starts on the track.

NFHS Rule 5-7-4c outlining what a false start entails now provides a more in-depth definition, describing it as if "a runner leaves their mark with a hand or foot after the 'set' command but before the starting device is fired."

The rule also includes a new provision in (d) that designates a violation when a "runner leaves their mark with a forward motion without the starting device being fired."

But more clarity on how to officiate starts comes in a further note in Rule 5-7-4, making it clear that "extraneous motion" before the starting device is fired doesn't constitute a false start in every case, unless "the criteria in the rule are met." The note also gives starters the ability to give the "stand up" command or restart a race once the starting device has already been fired if they feel movement caused an unfair start.

That note also applies to cross country regulations outlined in Rule 8.

While the new language on false starts comes with perhaps the most influence, other changes come with new significance.

Rule 6 -- specifically tied to field events -- includes a revision that now allows shot put, discus and javelin athletes to tape their fingers, as long as no two fingers are taped together. Other field event changes include clarity on jump offs and time allotted for first trial of high jump and pole vault competitions.

Also of importance comes changes to Rule 4-2-1, which gives state associations greater flexibility to set the number of events an athlete can participate in to a maximum of six. State associations can determine based on an individual basis what event limit to enforce within their state.

The full list of revisions includes the following, which can also be found on the NFHS website:

  • 3-8-1: Permits the Games Committee to set requirements for each meet on the number of timing officials.
  • 4-2-1: Permits state associations to set the participation limitations within their state, with six events being the maximum number.
  • 5-3-1, 9-4-1: Removed and corrected information concerning track staggers.
  • 5-7-4c,d; 8-4-4: Extraneous motion before the device is fired does not necessarily require a false start to be charged unless the runner leaves their mark with hand or foot after the set command or leaves their mark with a forward motion without the starting device being fired.
  • 5-14-1, 2: Clarifies that displacement of any hurdle by hand is an infraction.
  • 6-2-2d: Clarifies when a competitor enters a vertical jump for the first time, at any height, no matter the number of competitors left that this competitor is only permitted one minute for their attempt.
  • 6-3-2b: Added language in vertical jumps when breaking ties and competitors withdraw from the competition/jump-off.
  • 6-3-2b: Any athlete withdrawing from a jump-off concedes the higher place but retains their performance in the event.
  • 6-4-1, 6-5-1, 6-6-1: Permits athletes in the throws to apply tape to their fingers as long as the fingers are not taped together and all fingers can move independently. 
  • 8-1 and 8-5: Re-organization of the cross country course layout.