The NCAA Dictionary - trackboundUSA

The NCAA Dictionary


trackboundUSA NCAA Dictionary

Have you ever read one of our articles or a report of a race online from the NCAA and thought, “what on earth does that word mean?!” Well you don’t have to worry about that anymore as we here at trackboundUSA have put together an extensive, but by no means exhaustive list of many terms and phrases that can confuse and confound even the hardiest of athletics fans. These definitions are intended to give a brief overview of what certain terms mean, and more detailed information can be found in our articles page here. As always, we welcome contributions from our readers to add to the dictionary over time.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

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Academic All-American – The greatest honour that can be given to a Student-Athlete in the NCAA. In order to be awarded this honour, you must first have a cumulative GPA of 3.30 or better. You must then be nominated by your institution for consideration, and be selected by committee to be awarded Academic All-American.

All-American – This is one of the greatest athletic honours that can be given at University in the U.S.A. In Division I Cross-Country, the top 40 finishers at Nationals will be awarded All-American in both Division I and II. On the track, the top eight finishers in each event will be awarded First Team All-American. The next eight finishers will be awarded Second Team All-American.

All-Conference – In cross-country, each conference has their own rules as to who makes the All-Conference team. Generally, somewhere around 14-16 athletes will be All-Conference. On the track, finishing first in your event will make you First Team All-Conference. Finishing second will make you Second Team All-Conference.

All-Region – Finishing inside the top-25 in the cross-country Regional Championships will make you All-Region in both Division I and II.

At Large – In Cross-Country, any team that qualifies for the National Championships, but did not finish in the top 2 at their respective Regional Championships, is said to be an “at large” team. At large teams qualify through a complicated “points” and “wins” system.

Auto Time – During the Indoor Season, athletes can automatically qualify for the National Meet by running a time set by the NCAA. See the list of qualifying times for Division I here: MEN | WOMEN

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Bracket – An American tradition around March Madness. Once all the teams have been selected to take part in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, you can fill out a bracket where you predict which teams will make it through the rounds, and ultimately win the tournament.

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Class – U.S.A. equivalent of a lecture or seminar.

Conference – The USTFCCCA defines 31 college conferences in Division I NCAA. Conferences are traditionally made up of universities in close proximity to each other. For a more in depth look at NCAA conferences, look at our article here.

Division II is divided into 22 conferences.

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Distance Medley Relay (DMR) - A unique relay that brings together sprinters and middle distance athletes. The relay legs are in the following order: 1200m, 400m, 800m and 1600m.

Dual-Meet – A competition that takes place between two universities.

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Freshman – First year within the institution, first season of eligibility in competition.

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Grade Point Average (GPA) – This is the score that students achieve at the end of each semester, and is calculated based on what grade you achieve in each class. The number of hours which a class is worth (e.g. 3) is multiplied by the grade score (e.g. A=4, B=3 etc.) to obtain a score for that one class. All of your class scores are added together, and then divided by the number of hours you completed that semester to obtain your GPA.


Class 1) 3 hours – A. = 3 x 4 = 12.

Class 2) 6 hours – B. = 6 x 3 = 18.

Class 3) 6 hours – B. = 6 x 3 = 18.

Total Hours = 6 + 6 + 3 = 15.

Overall Score = Class 1) + 2) + 3) = 12 + 18 + 18 = 48.

Overall Score / Total Hours = GPA. = 48 / 15 = 3.2 GPA.

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ICAAAA (IC4A) - Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America.

Individuals – In Division I Cross Country, these are the first four individuals (three in Division II) across the line in each region that do not qualify for the National Championships with their team.

Ivy League – An athletic conference comprised of eight private universities located in the North East of the United States. These schools are: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. These institutions are considered the best academic schools in the country.

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Junior – Third year within the institution, third season of eligibility.

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Last Chance Meet – This falls the weekend before the qualification window closes for the National Indoor Championships, and races are set up to run fast in order to try and achieve one of the top 16 times in the country. These competitions take place throughout the country, but one of the bigger events is the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame, where many of the National DMR qualifiers qualify from.

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March Madness – The time of the year where College Basketball takes over the nation. The top 68 Men’s and Women’s teams in the country compete in a knockout tournament throughout the month on March to be crowned the NCAA champion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Falling annually on the third Monday of January, this day marks the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is in honour of the work King did as the leader of African-American Civil Rights Movement.

Medical Redshirt - When an athlete suffers a serious, season ending injury, they can apply for a hardship waiver to gain that season of eligibility back. This is subject to the athlete participating in less than 30% of the available competitions and not participating in any competitions after the half-way point of the season.

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NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

National Letter of Intent - A document that is signed by a student athlete to indicate their commitment to a NCAA institution. See National Signing Day for more information.

National Signing Day - Usually falling on the first Wednesday in February, National Signing Day marks the opening of the period that high school athletes can sign their National Letter of Intent and commit to an institution. This day is usually a big day for the powerhouse American Football colleges, as many of the top prospects in the country will announce their commitment on National Signing Day.

NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association.

NJCAA – National Junior College Athletic Association.

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Practice – When you meet with the squad for your run, you are going to practice.

President’s Day – Also known as Washington’s Birthday, it falls annually on the third Monday of February. It is in honour of George Washington, the first President of the U.S.A.

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Quadrangular – A competition that takes place between four universities.

Quarters – 400m reps.

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Redshirt – This is a delay or suspension in a student’s participation in sport in order to extend their eligibility over more years (up to five years for undergraduate, six years for graduate). This can simply be a coach’s decision to make the athlete redshirt in the hope of performing at a higher level in their extra year, or it can be a medical redshirt. See our article on redshirting here.

Regionals (Cross-Country) - Division I is split into nine different regions based on location. The two teams with the lowest points total from each region gain an automatic berth to the National Championships (18 teams total). There are a remaining 13 “at large” teams that will make the National meet, based on performances throughout the year. There are also four individuals from each region that will qualify for the National meet.

The nine Division I regions are: Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain, South, South Central, Southeast, West and Northeast.

Division II is slightly different. 32 teams qualify for the National Meet, and only three individuals from each region will qualify.

Division II is divided up into eight different regions: Atlantic, Central, East, Midwest, South, South Central, Southeast and West.

Regionals (Outdoor Track) – Division I is split into two regions: East and West. The top 48 times from each region qualify for the Regional Championships (this is the top 48 accepted entries, with some athletes pulling out due to injury, or participating in a different event). The Regional Championships are seen as the earlier rounds of the National Championship, and only 12 from each region make it to Nationals. In all field events, and the 10,000m, it is the first 12 athletes that qualify. In all the other events, the fastest loser rules come into effect with so many from each heat qualifying automatically, plus so many fastest losers.

For an idea of what sort of times make the Regional Championships, see the 2012 accepted entries lists from the Men’s EAST, Men’s WEST, Women’s EAST and Women’s WEST.

Division II does not have a Regional Championships, and instead qualification is through achieving the Auto time for each event, where roughly 18 athletes per event will qualify.

Repeats – Repetitions in a session. E.g. 10 x 400 repeats.

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Scratch – For whatever reason (injury, illness, non-participation), an athlete drops out of the competition before the event starts.

Senior - Fourth year within the institution, fourth season of eligibility.

Sophomore – Second year within the institution, second season of eligibility.

Spring Break – The timing of Spring Break varies between each institution, but it is a week break from University during March. Traditionally in the U.S.A, it is a time for students to let their hair down before the final run in of classes before Summer.

Student-Athlete – The very definition of what a cross-country/track athlete will be at University. Study hard in class. Train hard at practice.

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Thanksgiving – This falls annually on the fourth Thursday in November. Although only celebrated since 1863, the “First Thanksgiving” took place in 1621 when the Pilgrims harvested their first crops in the “New World”, which is now the U.S.A. Thanksgiving falls within a week holiday from University for students, and traditionally involves spending time with family and friends, and an enormous meal.

Title IX – A complicated rule that requires equal participation opportunities between male and female athletes. Because of American Football (a male only sport), more sports have to be offered to female athletes, or some male sports have to be cut from the university in order to equal the ratio of competitors. See our article for a more in depth look here.

Transfer – When an athlete wishes to move from one institution to another, there are certain restrictions and rules that are enforced; the most prominent one being a one year ban from competition (although this is subject to strict exceptions). See our article on transferring here.

True Freshman - This is an athlete that is competing in their first year within the institution. This is as opposed to a redshirt freshman who has sat a season out and is using their first season of eligibility in their second year at university.

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USATF – U.S.A. Track and Field.

USTFCCCA – U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

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Varsity – In Cross-Country terms, this is the seven athletes that will compete for the team at the Regional and National Championships and other competitions throughout the year.

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Walk-On – Any athlete that competes in a sports program at university who was not actively recruited by the coaching staff. They are usually selected to participate based on a trial that takes place in the pre-season of the chosen sport.

Weight Throw – this is an event that takes place during the indoor season and is comparable to the Hammer Throw in the outdoor season. Men throw a 35lb weight, women throw a 20lb weight.

Win / Points – During cross country, teams will compete against each other up until their Regional Meet. If Team “A” beats Team “B” at a competition prior to Regionals, and then Team “B” finishes in the top 2 at their Regional Championships (gaining automatic qualification to the National Championships), then Team “A” will register a win against that team and earn one point. There are many more complicated scenarios and exceptions, but the above is the basic premise. The more points you have after the Regional Championships, the better chance you have to qualify as an “at large” team to Nationals.

Workout – U.S.A equivalent of a session.

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Zee – The American pronunciation of the letter ‘Z’.


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