In 10 states, girls run shorter cross country races than boys

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  • #12491


    In 10 states, girls run shorter cross country races than boys. Is that practice fair?

    In Wisconsin, even the 4K distance isn't all that old. I believe it was my sophomore year (fall 1992) that the girls moved up in distance from 3200 meters to 4000. That move didn't hurt participation numbers at the small school I went to. Personally, I think Wisconsin and the 9 other states that don't let girls run the same distance as the boys should join the 21st century and let everyone compete over the same distance.

    Anyone else have thoughts?

  • #32450

    Andrew A.

    In theory, it would be nice if all could and would.  Practically speaking, at least in Texas, there is absolutely a strong perception that going up to 5K (from 2 mi, I believe) would hurt participation among smaller schools.  Texas is a place where cc is often (esp. at smaller schools) coached by someone who is coaching at least one other sport and is teaching in the classroom, to boot.  Recruiting for the cc team (perhaps the least popular of h.s. sports, at least in terms of perception) becomes yet another task to add to that teacher/coach's plate, which entails selling kids on the appeal of doing workouts and races in Texas in the heat and humidity of August, September, and October.  So often the team at a small school will be comprised significantly of off-season basketball players and the like.  Bear in mind the size of Texas and that there are five competition classes (well, six or seven in football) so the UIL oversees a large number of schools with student bodies ranging from dozens to thousands in size.  I am aware that there has been a movement to shift the largest classes (5A, 4A, 3A) to 5K while leaving the smaller classes (2A, 1A) as is.  The topic came up in a post (and comment discussion) on Jay Johnson's blog about last fall's NCAA meet (where men run 10K and women run 6K), plus in a RT article that was published about that time.

  • #32451


    According to that article, the two largest classes in Texas are running 5K, while the smaller classes are sticking with 3200 for the reason you mention. Apparently, there is some interest in doing similar in Nebraska, though it would require a rule change to allow different distances for different divisions. I understand that argument, especially at very small schools without a coach who is fully invested in running. However, I think it's a shame that the girls aren't given the chance. Why can they manage to get the boys at those small schools out but not the girls?

    I do think the NCAA should move to a standard distance, also. In a way, I'd love to see that distance be 8K but that's a whole different story. I just don't think it's right that HS girls and collegiate women are not allowed to run the same distance as their male counterparts.

  • #32452

    Andrew A.

    Why can they manage to get the boys at those small schools out but not the girls?

    That goes into a whole other discussion of gender roles in our society, in the present as influenced by the past.  In short, it is not quite that simple.  Witness girls who excel in the sciences early in their schooling somehow become less and less adept in response to social pressures, as shown in study after study.  Smart women (as well as athletic women) are not generally perceived as most attractive, which is reinforced by media images.  Especially in a small town setting?  It is a weird and unfortunate thing yet nonetheless true.

    Anyway, I think the important thing to remember here is that for the vast majority of participants, it is still simply an extracurricular activity.  Where is the line between something that enhances scholastic life for the greatest proportion and a highly competitive/developmental model that better enables identifying talent?  What are the true and highest goals of extracurricular programs, in high school or in college?  In response to comments like that made by Nick Stanko on Jay Johnson's blog entry, I would say that how prepared college runners might be for the senior distances at World Cross is essentially irrelevant to where the distance(s) for collegiate cc races should be set — plus, it is unclear whether racing over 10K helped those middle distance runners he listed more than it may have hurt them.  Why does essentially no other nation's middle distance program push runners to race 10K as they approach senior ranks?  I might contend, however, that an 8K maximum for most college runners could enable more sound development of a greater number of runners and thus cultivate a greater talent pool from which to draw the teams for World Cross.

  • #32453


    Very good points. Societal norms are tough to break. I still think it's a shame but I do get the point.

  • #32454


    I believe that our generation is begining to break those “norms.”

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