Girls Cross Country - Rules & Regulations

Rules and Regulations

9-1-3b New: Permits the use of double boundary lines marking both the inside and outside boundaries of the cross country course.

Rationale: The use of the double painted line provides additional guidance to the runners, better defines the race course for spectators, and allows for natural barriers (grasses, hedges, etc.) which appear on many of the newer courses.

9-3-3a, b New: Recommends the use of a video/photograph back-up system for cross country when transponders are used for place finish with a review activated when the timing system indicates a one-tenth second or less differential.

Rationale: Recommends the use of a video/photograph back-up system when order of finish in cross country is determined using a transponder system. Transponders can read early or late, come off the runner etc. The video back-up can confirm close finishes and also assist if other problems arise using the transponder system at the finish line.

9-3-4, 5 New, 9-4-6, 8, 9, 10: A finish corral is recommended at cross country meets in which the transponder system is used for the order of finish.

Rationale: The finish line is opened to its full width when using transponders for order of finish allowing competitors to race through the line. The use of a chute may restrict running space therefore, the corral should be used with transponder place finish. The corral enhances competitors’ ability to perform administrative tasks as directed by meet management and then progress in an orderly fashion out of the corral culminating all race activity.

Printable Version - Click here to print a copy for placement in your rules book.


NXN is a post-season competition that involves a regional qualifying round. The WIAA does not allow high school teams to participate in these meets but, does allow “club teams” to participate.


*No contact with the high school cross country coach is allowed after the date of the State Cross Country Meet. *The team must be a club team. No high school uniforms, warm-ups, transportation, or funding is allowed. The team should not be identified as the high school team. For example; “Central High School” is not acceptable but “Cheetahs Running Team” would be.

*Teams may not be chosen or invited based upon their performance at the WIAA State Cross Country Meet. They must run a qualifying meet which is open to all.

*Amateur status rules must be followed. From the Rules At A Glance: C. AMATEUR STATUS A student may not accept, receive and/or direct to another, any cash or merchandise awards for achievement in athletics. This means athletes may not accept items such as shoes, jackets, gift certificates, etc., for athletic accomplishments, such as being on a winning team, being selected for the school varsity team, or being a place winner in an individual tournament, etc. They may receive an award which is symbolic in nature, such as trophies, medals, ribbons, event T-shirts, event hats, game balls or other items of no intrinsic value. Rules further prevent athletes from receiving compensation or benefit, directly or indirectly, for the use of name, picture and/or personal appearance as an athlete. This includes receiving free and/or reduced rates on equipment, apparel, camps/clinics/instruction and competitive opportunities that are not identical for all other participants. A student may not be identified as an athlete, provide endorsement as an athlete, or appear as an athlete in the promotion of a commercial/advertisement and/or profit-making event, item, plan or service. Also, an athlete violates this rule if he/she plays in any contest (school or nonschool) under a name other than his/her own. (RE – Art. IV).

Individual competitions such as the Foot Locker, Border Battle, USATF qualifier, etc. would be allowed with the same stipulations as those indicated above. Individual athletes may not be identified with their high school team but may use their hometown.

2015 Cross Country Q & A’s

Vol. 1 – 8/20/15

QUESTION 1:               In previous years there has been a prohibition against a folded bandanna worn as a hair control device or sweatband.  Is this still true with the removal of the jewelry ban and restrictions on hair control devices?

ANSWER:                     No, the prohibition no longer exists.  With the removal of the jewelry ban and restrictions on hair control devices, it was decided to simply refer to the NFHS Rules. The rationale is that it is simpler to administer and the reference is available to anyone with a rule book.  

QUESTION 2:               I had two coaches come to me for an explanation of pacing during a CC race because they have apparently seen it twice and were concerned it would happen again at the meet the day I was working.  The person against which the complaint is registered is the Jr. High School runner's father  He apparently had run along side his daughter in open areas twice before my meet at which the question was raised.  During my meet I asked the runner's coach who this person was and he identified the father to me. I told the coach to tell the father to stay off the course and away from his daughter.  Was I correct in doing so?

ANSWER:                      In a XC Meet "disqualification" occurs if......"a competitor receives assistance from any person"(Rule 9.7.4) and it is observed by one of the Meet Officials.  Assistance(Rule 4.6.5b)......"Pacing by a teammate not in the race or persons not participating in the event", constitutes an UNFAIR ACT.  The result of which is "disqualification" from the event.  Refer to the Case Book, page 39, 4.6.5.

You acted proactively by approaching the Coach, pointing out what had been reported to you, about previous competitions.  Among the Coach's preseason duties is to ensure that each of his/her athletes is knowledgeable about the rules governing the sport.  In turn the athletes are responsible for sharing this knowledge with their parents.  It is well within the Coach's jurisdiction to upon report of a an "over active" parent, to counsel the parent as to the implications of their actions upon the competitors.

Again you acted proactively in maintaining visual contact, as much as possible, with the competitors during the race.  To carry this any further would be to unjustly compromise the nature of your duties and responsibilities.  The host school is responsible for identifying the need and appointing and assigning umpires to the course.  Additionally the host school identifies "restricted" areas.   (Robert Kern)

QUESTION 3:       My athletes would like to wear a) face paint, b) temporary tattoos, c) their time goals marked on their hand with permanent marker.  Which of these would be legal?

ANSWER:             Cross Country Coaches Advisory has determined that face paint is prohibited as it detracts from the integrity of the event.  Temporary tattoos (school nickname, mascot, etc.) are allowed as is a discreet marking on the body.  Coaches are reminded that the athletes are representing their school and that as representatives they should uphold the high standards of their school and team.


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2014 Cross Country Q & A’s


There may be some coaches and/or officials who are incorrectly interpreting the new "foundation garment" rule (which is allowing apparel worn under the shorts NO LONGER be required to match, be a solid color, or contain or a single logo, provided the apparel does not extend below the knees) to also include undergarments worn under the jersey.  A t-shirt or long sleeve shirt worn under the jersey continues to be subject to Rule 9-6-1b7; "Any visible garment(s) worn by two or more team members underneath the uniform top and /or extending below the knees, shall be unadorned and of the same single, solid color, but not necessarily the same length.  As per NFHS rules, a single, visible manufacturer's logo and/or single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4 inches are permitted on the undergarment."

Vol. 1 – 9/12/14

QUESTION 1:                I'm aware that the WIAA allows wheelchair athletes to participate in track and field.  Is this also allowed in cross country?

ANSWER:                     No.  At this time wheelchair athletes are not permitted to compete in cross country. When the WIAA receives a request from a member school, the same procedures used to approve track & field will be followed to gain approval for cross country.

QUESTION 2:               At a recent meet, an athlete competed with an artificial lower leg.  Is this legal?  Is WIAA permission necessary?

ANSWER:                     Allowed, WIAA approval is not necessary provided the prosthetic device is not a "blade".

QUESTION 3:              What medical items do not require WIAA approval?

ANSWER:                     Cast, splint (meet referee inspects to determine if padding is necessary), knee brace (does not need padding), insulin pump, prescription hearing aid.  A non-medical device that is allowed:  electronic monitoring ankle device.  

QUESTION 4:                What items require WIAA approval?

ANSWER:                     The coach should provide the meet referee with written approval for the following: EPI pen, prescribed heart monitor, head covering other then what is allowed per WIAA State Adaptation.   Athletes running with a "guide" must present written WIAA approval prior to the competition.  Athletes needing to carry/use an inhaler should present their physician's written orders to the meet referee prior to the competition.  

QUESTION 5:               The girls' team is wondering about wearing spandex not issued by the school as their uniform bottom.  At recent meets, they have noticed other teams wearing a variety of brands within the same team and not school issued during competition.  Let me know your thoughts and decision.

ANSWER:                     Logos are not considered as a part of the uniform design and therefore do not need to match.  There is an example in the Case Book 4.3.2, sit. A.   I know of several schools who restock their shorts supply frequently and often switch brands, which would explain the different logos.

If your athletes wish to purchase their own spandex bottoms, this would be legal, even if they had different logos as long as they are identical in color and design.  If your administration approves this, they then would be considered "school issued" (approved).

QUESTION 6:               Recently, we've had officials tell us that the very small headbands my girls wear for hair control are illegal because of the manufacturer's logos.  Please clarify the rule.

ANSWER:                    Regarding hair control devices, Wisconsin is following the NFHS Rule 4-3-3d which does not address this issue.  The ruling would be that logos on hair control headbands are legal.  Headbands (knitted, wide ear warmers worn during cold weather) are governed by the State Association Regulations, which also applies to knitted caps.  These items are subject to the single manufacturer's logo restriction.

QUESTION 7:                Are we allowed to run JV boys and girls together?

ANSWER:                     Yes, this would be permitted provided the genders are scored separately.

QUESTION 8:                Is it a rules violation if a runner begins a race wearing shoes, purposely removes them during the race and finishes in socks ?

ANSWER:                      Illegal.  Please refer to rule 9-6-1a1; "Each competitor shall wear shoes."

QUESTION 9:               Our cross country coach had a question regarding uniforms.  Does the team have to be wearing the same shorts or same color shorts for a cross country meet at the high school level?

Our students wear black shorts as part of their uniform.  Some runners prefer the running type shorts and others prefer the spandex type. 

ANSWER:                      Rule 9-6-1 states that athletes should have identical color and designed uniforms.  Styles (length of bottoms/material/etc.) may vary.

QUESTION 10:             With the new jewelry rule, is it correct that medical alert items no longer have to be taped to the body if they are on chains, etc.?  Are medical alerts considered jewelry?

ANSWER:                     That is correct.  Medical alerts had not been considered jewelry in the past.  It is no longer necessary to tape the medal to the body, but make sure the information on the medal is clearly visible.

QUESTION 11:             During a CC race, lightning is seen or thunder is heard.  What is the correct procedure to follow?  What if the race has just begun?  What if the race is approximately 3/4 finished?  How do we actually get runners stopped if they are 1/2 mile or further away?  If we somehow stop the race and the runners are on the course, won’t it take them as long (or longer) to get back to the finish line even though the race has been stopped?  Exposed to bad weather longer than if they had finished the race?  

ANSWER:                     This has been asked/answered several times in the cross country Q & A and probably in past rules videos.  Host schools are expected to have a clear plan in place to move athletes/spectators from the course.  Air horn, etc.  As you indicated, with the use of technology, if there is an imminent threat of severe weather, the race should not be started.  Officials must use their best judgment in allowing runners to actually finish, but only if that route is shorter then abandoning the race course in a move to shelter.

 QUESTION 12:             Further discussion on thunder/lightning.  The NFHS rule is “see or hear.”  With today’s technology available through smart phones, tablets, etc., is there a “safe” distance that lightning strikes can be from the site even though nothing is seen or heard?  i.e.  The computer picks up a lightning strike 3 miles away, but nothing is seen or heard at the site of competition.  Conversely, sheet lightning is seen, but it is documented that it is 15 miles away.  The rule deals only with “see or hear”—no provision for technology assistance.  

ANSWER:                     That is correct at this time.   Best practice is if host or officials have access to radar which indicates lightening in the vicinity, even if it hasn't been seen or heard, take action to move runners/spectators to shelter.

QUESTION 13:              None of us could find the rule reference for the watch with GPS capabilities (Question #18 on the exam).  Can you provide us the reference? 

ANSWER:                     This is an NFHS clarification, which has been shared in the past.  GPS is considered an aid, which is prohibited in rule 4-6-5d.

QUESTION 14:              I cannot find any reference to arm sleeves in the rules book, case book, or WIAA website.  The only thing similar I can find is from a bulletin referencing using the sleeves in basketball, but only for medical purposes.  Should I be looking outside of the cross country section and go into the track section?

ANSWER:                     Legal.   Generally, if you do not see something listed in the NFHS rule book or WI Adaptations as being prohibited, it means its legal.

QUESTION 15:              Could I get a clarification on sports bra as a foundation garment?  Does this mean our girls do not have to have matching color sports bras?  Most of the time they are not noticeable, but once in awhile we get a girl who has a loose uniform top and you can see the sides of it.  Just want to make sure before I tell them they all have to go buy the same color.

ANSWER:                     Regarding the sports bra, please refer to page 31 of the NFHS Case Book.  4.3.1, sit. L  COMMENT: "A sports bra is considered a foundation garment.  They are not considered as visible undergarments and therefore could contain more than one color in the fabric."  All rules referencing sports bra restrictions were removed from the rule book over 10 years ago.

2013 Cross Country Q & A’s

Vol. 1 – 10/8/13

QUESTION 1:       My athletes would like to wear a) face paint, b) temporary tattoos, c) their time goals marked on their hand with permanent marker.  Which of these would be legal?

ANSWER:             Cross Country Coaches Advisory has determined that face paint is prohibited as it detracts from the integrity of the event.  Temporary tattoos (school nickname, mascot, etc.) are allowed as is a discreet marking on the body.  Coaches are reminded that the athletes are representing their school and that as representatives they should uphold the high standards of their school and team.

QUESTION 2:            Recently, we've had officials tell us that the very small headbands my girls wear for hair control are illegal because of the manufacturer's logos.  Please clarify the rule.

ANSWER:               Regarding hair control devices, Wisconsin is following the NFHS Rule 4-3-3d which does not address this issue.  The ruling would be that logos on hair control headbands are legal.  Headbands (knitted, wide ear warmers worn during cold weather) are governed by the State Association Regulations which also applies to knitted caps.  These items are subject to the single manufacturer's logo restriction.

QUESTION 3:            We recently had an athlete compete with a guide.  Is this allowed?

ANSWER:                   Yes, but officials must ask the coach to show the WIAA issued waiver which gives the athlete permission to run with a guide.  Coaches are encouraged to show the waiver to the meet referee during the pre-meet coaches meeting.

Vol. 3  10/15/12

Question 1    I recently read the notice about the prohibition of face and body paint.  There is a team in our area that always has candy striped legs for sectionals.  Is this considered body paint?
Answer    I’m familiar with this practice.  They use self-tanning lotion.  At this time this would not be considered a violation.

Question 2    At a meet I officiated one of the teams was wearing very nice knit caps with “US Air Force” woven into the caps.  I don’t think these are legal to wear.  Please clarify.
Answer    Please refer to the WIAA Tournament Procedures:
a.    The only allowed head coverings are knit caps which may be solid or multi-colored.  School names, nicknames, and mascots are allowed, along with a manufacturer’s logo.  Items covering the entire head such as scarves, bandannas, do-rags, baseball caps, etc., may not be worn during competition.  Waivers for other head coverings may be issued for religious or medical situations by the WIAA staff.

Question 3    Are socks considered part of the uniform?  Subject to color or logo restrictions?
Answer    No.  Neither the NFHS nor the WIAA address regulations for socks.

Question 4    The NFHS Rule Book (9-6-1a3) allows competitors to wear 1 inch spikes but the WIAA Adaptations have a limit of ½ inch.  Which is correct?
Answer    Please refer to page 5 of the WIAA Fall Season Regulations.  NATIONAL FEDERATION ALLOWED ADAPTATIONS   b.  “Spikes, if allowed may NOT be longer than ½ inch.”  Reports have been received that clerks/officials are not checking spike lengths, but that is not a reason to exceed the allowed length.  The penalty for spikes beyond ½ inch is disqualification.

Question 5    Please explain the logo rule in regards to the undergarment.
Answer    “A single manufacturer’s logo/trademark no more than 2 ¼ square inches with no dimension more than 2 ¼ inches is permissible on all apparel, including clothing worn under the uniform.”

Question 6    My team has long tights that they wear under their uniform shorts.  The tights have a 1inch wide silver reflective tape that extends up the shin.  If the tights are black does the reflective tape make them illegal?
Answer    Yes, if worn as an undergarment they must be a solid color (Rule 9-6-1b7).  “Any visible garment(s) worn…underneath the uniform top and/or bottom shall be unadorned and of the same single, solid color….”

Question 7    If one of our runners is unable to run in the sectional meet and the team qualified for state, can he replace someone who originally ran at sectionals for state?

Answer    Allowed.  “A school may change its squad make-up from one level of tournament competition to the next.”


Vol. 2 – 9/18/12

QUESTION 1    I remember hearing a few years ago that the “fun runs” often conducted following a cross country meet were “off limits” to members of the team.  Is this still true?
ANSWER    Yes.  The interpretation is that participating in this event would count as an additional race or another meet.  Running two races in one day is prohibited by the Season Regulations (page 4, Individual Participation Limitations).  Running an additional meet may result in competing in more than the maximum allowed number of meets (11).

QUESITON 2    In a recent invitational meet, I noticed athletes in a part of the course that was heavily wooded, cutting the course flags.  If this happens during the regular season what will happen during the sectional meets?
ANSWER    It is the responsibility of the coach to relay the rules of the sport of cross country and also the ethical implications when an athlete decides to cheat by cutting a course.  When hosting a cross country meet, hosts should make every attempt to station umpires at flags indicating a turn on the course.  This will continue to be a point of emphasis throughout the season.

QUESTION 3    At the cross country meet in XXX on Thursday Sept. 30, the referee told me it is against the rules for a coach to read the time of the race off of the coach's stopwatch because it is considered "aiding a runner". Can you clarify whether this is correct?
When I got home from the meet, I researched the 2012 NFHS Track and Field Rules.  I began with Rule 9 and could only assume the official was referring to Section 7, Article 4 (Disqualification for a competitor who "receives any assistance from any other person"). That Article cross-references to Rule 4, Section 6, Article 7, which defines "assistance". The only possible alleged violations that I can think of would be pacing or coaching from a restricted area. I'm not sure where the restricted areas of a cross country course are, other than the path of runners, the start line, and the finish chute.  As for "pacing", Rule 4.6.7 Situation C of the Casebook indicates that a coach can call out times and splits.
ANSWER    Prior to the start of the meet, preferably at the pre-meet coaches meeting, it should be determined where the restricted areas of the course are and where you would be allowed to call splits to your athletes.   Ask the meet referee this question directly so that all coaches hear the same answer to avoid issues once the race has begun.

QUESTION 4    I was told by a referee that I need to present a form signed by a doctor stating that my runner needs an inhaler for his asthma.  Can you tell me where I can get this form?
ANSWER    Rule 4-6-7 NOTE:  “ not considered an illegal aid as long as a physician’s statement documenting the need of the athlete to use the prescription is present to the meet director/referee....”  Your athlete should contact their doctor and request a written statement of the need for the inhaler.  You’ll need a copy to show to the officials.

QUESTION 5    We have been competing in a junior varsity meet the week of sectionals for many years and have had our Varsity athletes competing in sectionals come with the junior varsity team and do their workout on the course prior to the jv race. This year that course is the site of our sectional race.  Can we still have our Varsity athletes come and get their run in for that day on the course?
ANSWER    Thanks for checking on this.  Your varsity would not be allowed to practice at the sectional course.  Please refer to the information posted on the WIAA Cross Country webpage:
9. PROHIBITION OF PRACTICE AT TOURNAMENT SITE: Schools are prohibited during the regular season and the WIAA tournament series from practicing for sectional and State Tournament preparation at sites and facilities hosting WIAA tournaments.  
Points of clarification:
*“Schools” include teams and their individual athletes.  Even if an individual acts independently.
*There is no distinction between a meet held on school property, a golf course, or public park.  All would be considered tournament sites.
*The host school may continue to practice on the meet site if they have an established history of practicing there.
*If another school has a history of practicing at a public park that is now a site for a sectional meet, they may continue to practice there.  For example, Team A runs a hill workout at XYZ Park on Wednesdays or Team B runs repeat halves at XYZ Park on Mondays.  This does not mean that Team A or B may now run the race course just because they have a history of using the park for particular workouts.
*Coaches, teams, and/or individuals are allowed to attend meets held at sectional courses as spectators.  Spectating does not include running or walking the entire course.  What do spectators usually do?  They watch the start, go to the mile and two mile marks, watch the finish or go to an interesting feature of the course; a steep hill.
*Teams are allowed to compete in meets held prior to the sectional meet at the sectional meet course.  A conference meet held at the sectional meet course would not be considered a violation of the rule.
*Coaches may videotape the course and show the tape to their athletes.
What you need to do:  Be certain that your athletes AND parents know and understand the rule.
Keep the “spirit” of the rule in mind. If it looks like practice it probably is!
This is the current interpretation of the language and it applies to almost all of the sports (except golf) sponsored by the WIAA.
The current language has been discussed by the Cross Country Coaches Advisory Committee and has been presented at the WCCCA Clinic by WIAA staff. Previous committees have not chosen to change the current language as it applies to cross country.
I’ve bolded the segment discussion what your varsity runners could do if they chose to attend the JV meet.

QUESTION 6    In your CC presentation you include a segment on GPS watches and mention that if discovered during the competition the athlete will be disqualified.  Is this a disqualification or is it a warning under the new uniform warning/disqualification rules?  
ANSWER    Its a disqualification since its considered an “aid”.  (RULE 9-7-4)

Vol. 1 – 8/16/12

QUESTION 1        Are the shoes with the individual toes legal?


ANSWER        Legal, provided the criteria of Rule 9-6-1a is met.

QUESTION 2    If we are running and scoring 8 athletes in our meet do we need a waiver?
ANSWER    Yes, the host school administrator should contact the WIAA and request a waiver which would allow 8 athletes to run and score in the meet.

QUESTION 3    I have a coach of a club cross country team asking to be part of an invite that we are hosting.  They consist of 9 high school boys and girls and are called Holy Family.  Can we allow them in?  I also have another group of homeschooled students called the Homeschool Eagles.  They don't call themselves a club team.  Can we allow them in?
ANSWER    WIAA rules would not prohibit you from including these clubs in your meet.  It is up to the host school to decide whether they want to allow them or not.  Some schools are very open to the idea and some absolutely do not want to include non-WIAA member groups.  Be certain though, that if they have middle level students they do not enter them or have them compete against senior high students.  WIAA rules would prohibit this.

QUESITON 4    I was informed by our head coach that we will need a wavier for the Rule 9-5-1 Uniform/Equipment #4:  As our Varsity and JV will not have identical uniforms.
ANSWER    There appears to be some confusion on this requirement.  Only if you expect your JV runners to at some time run varsity would you need a waiver.  For example, if there is a varsity race that allows 12 entries and your coach moves 2 JV runners up to the varsity, they would be required to have identical uniforms for the varsity race unless they have a waiver from the WIAA.
If there are separate varsity and JV races, those two teams are not required to have identical uniforms.  Only the uniforms within the two teams must match.

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