NCAA XC Running Equality

1658308_1201776383173211_7607639068931276621_oCurrent NCAA Rules for Cross Country:

Men- The distances for any championship race shall not be shorter than 8000 meters or longer than 10,000 meters.  

Women- The distances for any championship race shall not be shorter than 5000 meters or longer than 6000 meters.

Why are College Cross Country Distances different for women and men and what can we do to change it?

Women and men should race the same distance at the NCAA Championships in Cross Country for several reasons.

  • With the recent changes to the World Cross Country Championship distance, it is time for the NCAA to reconsider the rules.
  • The fact that all teams participating in the NCAA Championship events uphold the principles of Title IX, should mandate distance equality.  
  • Women are fully capable of competing with equal distances and the recent statistics support this.  
  • Other NCAA sports illustrate equality is possible and this should be carried over to Cross Country.   

In the recently released IAAF Competition Rules for 2016-17 the senior male and female athletes are racing 10km at the World Cross Country Championships.  For the first time they will compete at the same distances.  It is time that the NCAA consider also making the race distances the same.  I believe the NCAA looks to the IAAF for guidance.  With the changes they made and hopefully continue to make, I believe the NCAA should follow suit.

Women racing shorter distances at the NCAA Championships does not uphold the principles of Title IX.  The Title IX regulations governing athletics state “No person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from another person or otherwise be discriminated against in any interscholastic, intercollegiate, club or intramural athletics by a recipient, and no recipient shall provide any such athletics separately on such basis.” In addition “A recipient which operates or sponsors interscholastic, intercollegiate, club or intramural athletics shall provide equal athletic opportunity for both sexes.”   As a group of institutions that believe strongly in promoting the success of women in athletics, we must adhere to Title IX.  We should strive to treat men and women equally by providing them with the same opportunities.

The NCAA’s practice of only providing women with Championship races that are shorter distances sends a consistent message that women are not capable and are not equal.  Women are perfectly capable and willing to compete in the same distances as men.  In the most recent USA Running State of the Sport – US Race Trends report shows that women surpass men in road race participation rates in the 5k through the half marathon.  In 25 years (1990-2014), female participation in running races has gone from 25% to 57% and women 18-44 years of age are leading the charge.  We are only hurting the development of our NCAA athletes by putting women in an inferior position.  Gender differences promote the acceptance of second-class citizenship and promote incorrect information to women about their own abilities, assuring the discrimination continues.


Other NCAA sports show equality is possible.  Since their inception in 1982 the NCAA Swimming Championships have the same events offered for men and women.  The NCAA Track and Field Championships offer equal distance events for men and women.  Soccer teams play on the same size fields and play for the same amount of time.  In Basketball they play on the same courts for the same amount of time.  Hockey rinks are also the same for men and women and the length of games is the same.  It is time that Cross Country follows suit and sets an equal standard distance for men and women.

Providing equal distance races for men and women can only be beneficial for the NCAA and its female student/athletes.  They will graduate into a world knowing that they are fully equal to their male counterparts.   History has shown that the impact of equality in the formative years will result in subsequent increased participation as well as confidence for women in all realms of their lives.  I believe the recent changes at the World level demands we revisit these outdated rules.  NCAA institutions should adhere to the principals of Title IX.  When you look at the opportunities and growth in women’s racing after college it is evident that women are ready to race the same distances.  Lastly, equal opportunity in other NCAA sports should be carried over to Cross Country.  I request that you please consider this change.

Please consider signing the petition supporting our efforts to set a standard Cross Country distance for women and men at the NCAA Championships.

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