Season Structure - trackboundUSA

Season Structure


Indoor Track Season kicks off shortly after the Christmas break

The NCAA season can be categorized into three distinct sub-seasons; Cross-country, Indoor Track and Outdoor Track.  In contrast to the overlapping schedule of the UK season, each collegiate season comes to a conclusion before the next commences. Athlete’s seasons will end once they fail to qualify for the next meet. For endurance-focused schools, the majority of athletes will be expected to compete in all three seasons. Each sport will consist of a Conference and a National Championship, as well as numerous regular season meets.

Cross Country

The first season of the academic year is cross country. Typically, all student-athletes are requested back mid-August for the start of the Fall Semester. Those on the cross-country roster can be expected to be ready for fall practice anywhere from a week to ten days before term begins.  Racing begins in September and the races you will be expected to race will vary on your standard and depth of team. The regular season ends in mid October, and is followed in November by the Championships. Each team will compete in their Conference Championships and NCAA Regional’s (9 regions), and the top 31 teams who qualify from regional’s will advance to the NCAA National Championship. Nationals represent the season finale and are always held on the first Monday of thanksgiving week in late November.

Indoor Track

When you open your indoor season depends on the racing plans dictated by the head coach. Whilst there are a couple of pre Christmas indoor meets, for most teams the season starts in January. The option to allow for individual variation is more common in track than cross country, simply because there is less team emphasis.

Usual convention allows for several invitational and open meets before the team will travel to the Conference Champs.  Beyond Conference Championships, there is Nationals. Unlike cross country and outdoor track, there is no regional system for indoors and athletes qualify either by achieving an automatic qualifying mark, or being ranked in the top 16 nationally in their respective event. NCAA Indoors is arguably the hardest Championship to qualify for. With only 16 to qualify in each event, there are fewer participants indoors than cross country and outdoor track.

Outdoor Track

Outdoors is separated from the indoor season by only a matter of weeks. Should an athlete advance to Indoor Nationals, they may only have three weeks (in many cases even less) until their outdoor season is underway.  Like cross country, the season can be judged on success at the Conference, Regional and National Championships. For many schools and head coaches, they are judged on their success at their conference meet. For those higher-profile schools, their focus may be on the national stage, but rest assured that conference is a major event in any collegiate schedule. It is the bread and butter of the collegiate season.  In order to qualify for the Regional Meet, an athlete must be ranked in the top 48 in their respective region (either East or West). This is how the current system works, but there is no guarantee that it is here to stay. The qualifying procedure for nationals is under constant review with several different systems being used in the last decade. The collegiate season comes to an end with NCAA Nationals in mid-June. This is the crown jewel in the calendar and is undoubtedly the best showcase of the standard of the NCAA.

Athletes are usually free to leave after their season has ended, be it after Conference, Regional or the National Meets. During the season, Christmas and Spring break present periods where it’s possible to either return home or to travel under your own accord.

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