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Track and Field


General Information Track and Field Shoes Track meet necessities Track Terminology/field diagram Track and Field Events Cross Country Running


What is track and field?

Track and field is a variety of different athletic competitions that take place on an athletic track.  Events can include individuals or teams, generally amateurs, and can be both indoor and outdoor meets The field events include the high jump, long jump, and shot put. The track events are races including sprints, and longer runs such as the 1000- and 2000-metre races. This is a great sport for boys or girls who like to run, jump and throw.  Introducing your child to track at an early age can ensure a life long love for the sport. 

Unlike most other sports, track is a very flexible sport so kids who start later are not missing out on crucial skill-building years because most of track is what kids do naturally, which is running, jumping and throwing.   The age, maturity of the child and their ability to follow directions will determine the events that are appropriate for them.  For instance, hurdles, long distance events and most field events are not recommended for young children but they should enjoy the 100 meter dash or long jump.

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.  International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) - is the world governing body for track and field. 

Amateur Athletic Union, AAU is one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer sports organizations in the US dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.  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.

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 'unattached' status.

Junior Olympics

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 regional event.   The AAU Junior Olympics participant count is usually over 15,500 in twenty two different sporting events, including track and field.

The USATF, or USA Track and Field, also also holds Junior Olympic games. The USATF participant record is over 70,000 in track and field and cross country events.

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.

Age to start track and field...

Most high schools and many middle schools have track and field teams that compete. Outside of school youth track and field clubs are not as easy to locate as soccer or baseball clubs.  It is however a thriving activity nationwide and most communities have these clubs available, so it is just a matter of being able to locate them. 

Before joining a club, consider having your child participate in kids’ fun runs. The emphasis at these events is always on fun and participation as opposed to winning and timing.  These are relaxed track & field meets which have events for competitors of all ages.   It is a great way to introduce your child to the world of youth track and field.   Check the websites of local running clubs like to find out if there are any all-comers meets in your area.

If your child is serious about participating in youth track and field, it is a good idea to join a club.  This 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 6 years old to the age of 18.  Training is for all ability levels in long-distance running, sprints, relays, hurdles, long jump, high jump, and javelin.  The season consists of practices, local youth track developmental events and often culminates in the Junior Olympics.   The national youth track and field competitions start with children as young as 8.  From the age of 6 to around 12 years old you can expect fun games and activities that will build knowledge and skills.  Further development continues through the teen age years with the introduction of special training.

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 and under


AAU Junior Olympics Age Groupings for the 2008 Competition Year

Age Division Age Birth Year
Primary 8 & under 2000+
Sub-Bantam 9 1999
Bantam 10 1998
Sub-Midget 11 1997
Midget 12 1996
Sub Youth 13 1995
Youth 14 1994
Intermediate 15 & 16 1992 - 1993
Young Men/Women 17 & 18 1990 - 1991

USATF Junior Olympics Age Groupings for the 2008 Competition Year

Age Division Age Birth Year
Bantam 10 & under 1998+
Midget 11 & 12 1996-1997
Youth 13 & 14 1994-1995
Intermediate 15 & 16 1992-1993
Young Men/Women 17 & 18 1990-1991

What is the commitment level...

Registration for track and field clubs is normally in April with meets held generally each weekend through August. For high school students, ages 15 -18,  club season starts after the school track season ends (June to August).  State qualifying  meets take place in June and regional qualifying meets take place in July.   AAU National Junior Olympics takes place the first week of August for those who qualified.

Practices are usually two to three times per week.   A lot of these clubs serve as a feeder programs for high school track and cross country. 

What is the season for track and field?

There are two seasons for track and field. The indoor season is in the winter.  The outdoor track and field season usually begins in the spring and lasts through the summer.

How long are track meets?

Track meets are very long events which will last for about 4 - 6 hours.  Therefore it is important that you take the proper track meet necessities along with you.  Meets are held on Saturday or Sunday.  Some of the larger meets like regional and national competitions are spread over two or more days. AAU & USATF sanctioned meets (begin in June) are two day (Sat. & Sun.) meets and may require travel out of state.  

In all events, the top three finishers in each event win medals: gold for first place, silver for second place and bronze for third place. The first three across the finish line in races will win the medals.  In the high jump, the three athletes who jump the highest over will win. The three athletes who jump the longest distance, in the long jump, win medals.  In the shot put, the person who throws the ball the longest wins medals.



Cost To Participate...

Club fees are between $100 - $200 which may or may not include a uniform.  The fees required for each track meet that your child enters will vary. Amounts may be fixed or may depend on the number of events in which your child will be competing. Generally, meet registration will cost between $5 and $20.

In addition, you will need to purchase track shoes and depending on the age and level implements.