Thinking that track and cross-country are the same is like thinking that football and rugby are the same; both sports are completely different and once you observe their meets, that difference becomes apparent.
Both sports include running and meets, but there’s more to each sport than those two aspects.
Cross country involves more running and a stronger emphasis on maintaining pace.
“With XC (cross country), it’s more about endurance, running up to 50 miles a week, and working in holding a race for a longer amount of time,” said senior Alicia Villarreal.
During the season, cross country usually does training on hills because they run in natural terrain, unlike track, which involves running on a track. Cross country courses differ with location and locations with less hills are usually a favorite among runners because they are not as tiring.
In track, distance runners have to focus on speeding up on the last lap and saving some energy to get a great kick in the last hundred meters.
The two sports have different events at meets as well. Cross country meets only involve one event, which is the three-mile race. There are four races during league meets which include the junior varsity boys and girls, and then the varsity girls and boys. In track, there are four races for long distance: open boys and girls, and then varsity girls and boys. The events are the one mile (1600 meters), 800 meters, and two mile (3200 meters). Distance runners have to be able to rest between races so they don’t tire out in their next race.
Scoring for both sports is another major difference. In track, the coach sends out their top four runners to score in their race. First place gets five points, second place gets three points and third place gets one point. In order to win a track meet, the team has to score more points than the other team. Scoring for cross country is the complete opposite. Varsity teams consist of seven runners and the top five runners for that team score. Each runner gets a point that matches the place they got in the race and the objective is to get the least amount of points.
The equipment for both sports can also differ slightly. In track, distance runners use flat shoes with smaller spikes to grip the track better. In cross country, they use flats but they don’t have to focus on gripping the ground because it is dirt.
“I didn’t get any shin splints during cross country season because I didn’t have to wear track spikes,” said sophomore Allison Palmero.
Runners also have the option to wear their trainers instead of flats. Injuries in cross country can involve the natural terrain while track injuries usually involve pounding too hard on the hard track.
In cross country, there’s less people on the team because it does not have the different events that track has. Track has more events for different types of runners like sprinting and hurdles.
Cross country is not as big of a sport because track is more advertised to the world through the Olympics.
“Professional track races are showed on TV all the time. It’s one of the biggest events during the Olympics. It’s kind of hard to show a XC race. It’s just not the most popular sport,” said Villarreal.
Both sports are completely different but they both involve special people with the gift of endurance and great pace. Now that the facts are known, it’s time to stop confusing them once and for all.