Rules & Regulations

Rules and Regulations

2019 NFHS Rules Changes

2019 Track and Field and Cross Country Rules Changes 

4‐3‐1    Eliminates redundant language and expands definition of foundation garments. 

Rationale:This change expands the current interpretation of foundation garment to include any item worn under the uniform top and/or bottom as well as eliminate duplicate language in same rule. 

4‐3‐2    Clarifies uniform language for relay and cross country team members. 

Rationale: Slight differences in design of uniform do not negatively impact the identification of a relay or cross country team. The expectation of this rule is that all relay and cross country team members can be clearly identified as representing the same school.

6‐6‐11 Records measurement in discus and javelin to the nearest lesser inch or centimeter. 

6‐8‐12 Rationale: Clarifies measurements when using metric system.

6‐9‐4 6‐9‐5 Clarifies pit measurements for long jump and triple jump.

Rationale: Ensures pit measurements are within industry standards for safety. 

8‐1‐1 thru 3 Clarifies legal course layout. 

Rationale: Clarification of course markings. 

8‐3‐2 thru 5 Clarifies order of finish based on torso. 

Rationale: Clarifies that no matter the system used, the order of finish is based on when the torso crosses the finish line. 


2019 Editorial Changes 

6‐2‐20 Provides consistent language in the rules book, case book and officials manual. 

Rationale: Consistency with wording in the rules books. 

2019 Editorial Changes 

4‐6‐5 Notes, 5‐1‐3, 8‐6‐1 thru 3, 5‐2‐3, 5‐3‐6, 6‐5‐1, 6‐9‐1 


2019 Points of Emphasis 

  1. Uniforms 
  2. Wearable Technology 
  3. Officials Safety and Recommendations in Vertical and Horizontal Jumps 

Q & A

Cross Country Q & A
(IMPORTANT: Use the FIND option on your keyboard to search for key words.)

QUESTION:   I will be officiating a large 25 team invitational this weekend.  As I will be the only official, I would like to start the races from a position, on the initial 

                    straightaway, in from of the runners.  To alert the runners to my presence, I will be standing behind a 3 foot tall orange cone.  I feel that this starting 

                    position will provide me the best oversight for the start of the race and allow me a more advantageous view, in case a runner falls at the start.  Is this 

                    procedure OK or recommended?


ANSWER:    This is one of the starting procedures outlined in the NFHS 2019-2020 Officials Manual, page 41.  However, the WIAA has its own adaptation to the Cross 

                  Country starting procedures.  In Wisconsin officials position themselves on opposite sides of the the course, during the start of the race.   Although your 

                  reasoning is appropriate, until approved and recommended by the Coaches Association and the WIAA, this type of stating procedure is not recommended.  


1.   Question:     Are bibs required for competitors at a cross country meet?

Answer:       Rule 8-3-3 requires the competitor to wear one of the following:

1.    Contestant number

2.    Contestant number and computerized transponder/chip

3.    Computerized transponder/chip

Rule 8-3-4 states….Computerized transponders/chips may be used to record the finish order of a runner in cross country.  A bib transponder or two transponders/chips per runner, one attached to each shoe is preferred.


1.   Question:     I have a runner who would like to run in a local 5k race to support a family member with breast cancer.  We are in the middle of our cross country season.  Is this legal?

Answer:       During the season, an athlete may participate in not more than 2 nonschool competitions. Prior approval must be given by the school.  (A student becomes ineligible in a sport for the remainder of the season for not receiving school approval beforehand and/or competing in more than 2 nonschool events in the same sport during the season).  The contest will not count against the individual maximum for the athlete in that sport.  Nonschool competition is not allowed during the WIAA tournament series in that sport.

2.   Question:     Is it okay for the directional flags to have our school logo in the center of the flag?  It would still be obvious that it is Red, Blue or Yellow flag.

Answer:       There is no specific language that prohibits you from putting a loop on the directional flags, however the color of the flag (Red, Blue or Yellow) must remain VERY CLEAR.  This means that logos should be applied as to not take away from the function of the flag.

3.   Question:     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.

4.   Question:     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: Headwear

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.

5.   Question:     Are socks considered part of the uniform?  Subject to color or logo restrictions?  I've seen a few athletes wearing "Superman" socks.  Are these legal?

Answer:       Socks are not governed by NFHS rules.  However, NFHS has advised that for risk minimization purposes, athletes wearing Superman socks will be instructed to tuck the "capes" into the sock so that other runners do not catch their spikes on the extended

6.   Question:     The NFHS Rule Book (8-6-1a3) allows competitors to wear 1 inch spikes but the WIAA Adaptations have a limit of ½ inch.  Which is correct?

Answer:       Please refer to the Cross Country section 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.

7.   Question:      Please explain the logo rule in regards to the foundation garments.

Answer:       Rule 4-3-16-7  Any visible garments worn underneath the uniform top and/or bottom is considered a foundation garment.  Foundation garments are not subject to logo/trademark/reference or color restrictions.

8.   Question:     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:       Rule 4-3-1b-7  No, any visible garment(s) worn underneath the uniform top and/or bottom is considered a foundation garment.  Foundation garments are no longer subject to logo/foundation/reference or color restrictions.

9.   Question:     Is an athlete allowed to use a Velcro pouch to carry their inhaler during the race?

Answer:       Legal provided the athlete presented their prescription for the inhaler to the meet referee prior to the start of competition.

10. Question:     If my athlete wears an insulin pump does he need special permission?

Answer:       Yes, contact the WIAA and provide the athlete’s name.  WIAA staff will issue a waiver for this cross country season which should be shown to the meet referee prior to the start of competition.


11. Question:     Are the shoes with the individual toes legal?

Answer:       Legal, provided the criteria of Rule 8-6-1a is met.

12. Question:     Occasionally we have a runner(s) who we move up from JV to Varsity for a meet. Our JV uniforms are not identical to our Varsity uniforms. Will we need a waiver so that these athletes can run in the Varsity meet?

Answer:       Rule 4-3-2a now states that All relay and cross country team members must wear uniforms clearly indicating, through predominant color, school logo and color combinations of all outer garments worn as a uniform, that members are from the same team. NOTE: The official should be able to observe that all members are from the same team. The uniforms will not need to be identical, but should be easily identifiable. If your JV uniforms do not closely resemble your varsity uniforms, a waiver may be necessary.

13. Question:     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.

14. Question:     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:       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.

15. Question:     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 4-3-12, "Each competitor shall wear shoes on both feet."; and 4-3-12-4 “The use of slippers or socks does not meet the requirements of the rule”

16. Question:     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 4-3-2a states that “All relay and cross country team members must wear uniforms clearly indicating, through predominant color, school logo and color combinations of all outer garments worn as a uniform, that members are from the same team. NOTE: The official should be able to observe that all members are from the same team. 

With the increase of number of programs nationwide that are allowing individual team members the option to independently purchase either all or part of their team uniform, the uniform rule has become increasingly more difficult to officiate. Slight differences in design of uniform do not negatively impact the identification of a relay or cross country team. Officials should be able to observe that all members are from the same team. Therefore, styles (including length of bottoms/material/etc.) may vary.

17. Question:     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.

18. Question:     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 it’s legal.

19. Question:     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 it’s legal.

20. Question:     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 a while 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."

21. Question:     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.

22. Question:     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.

23. Question:     I am concerned about the number of flag whipping incidents that I have been made aware of already this fall. On Saturday, at the Rocket Invitational in South Milwaukee, our number four runner was hit just above the left eye by a flag that was whipped by one of the competitors. Although no stitches were required, he did have a large cut in his eyebrow. If the flag had hit him in the eye, the injury would have been significant.

Answer:       Whipping a flag is grounds for disqualification. Rules 8-6-16; “A competitor who interferes with another competitor” and 8-6-16; “A competitor who is unsporting or uses unacceptable conduct.” There is no valid reason for an athlete to grab a flag and bend it other than to cause harm to the runner behind him/her. This is a serious offense and coaches should be certain that their athletes understand not only the penalty but also the potential harm this practice may cause to others. Officials should include a reminder regarding this offense during their coaches meeting.

24. Question:     At the start of the JV boy's cross-country race, all teams are on the starting line. The time until the start is announced at 15 seconds and all is quiet. At that point one of the teams on the line shouts out a team cheer. Is this considered unsporting conduct? The issue was reported to the meet referee who informed the head coach that team cheers should be done prior to the two minute call and not on the starting line.

Answer:       Rule 8-7-1 regarding a false start refers you to the track rule 5-7-4. Under 5-7-4e (starting violations) is "repeated use of disconcerting acts." I believe that a warning to the head coach regarding this practice would be appropriate. You are also correct that rule 8-7-3 could apply; "..unsporting or uses unacceptable conduct."

25. Question:     Are GPS watches or other wearable technology permitted during competition?

Answer:       NFHS Track and Field and Cross Country Rules do not prohibit the use of wearable technologies, but Rules 3-2-8a and 4-6-5d state that no competitor may receive electronically transmitted data from a coach or other third party. If such communication is observed by an official, the competitor should be disqualified.

26. Question:     There are coaches that are under the impression that if a sectional meet is held at a public park, athletes may legally go individually or in small groups to run the course. This would be without coach or school involvement. Is this correct?

Answer:       No. Please refer to the Cross Country Season Regulations, “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.” Even though the language specifically states “schools”, this has always applied to individuals as well. Simply directing team members to run the site on a weekend by themselves or individuals running without knowledge of the coach does not make this legal.

27. Question:     I see that the school hosting our sectional has an invite this weekend. I'm planning on going to watch and some of the kids want to go as well. If they go, is it legal for them to walk the course, or walk/jog on the course to get to different vantage points to watch the meet? Is it legal for me to transport the kids to this meet? We have two training groups doing a long run on that same day, with some running before, and some after that Invite, at a park in our town. We understand that we can't "practice" at the sectional site, but I just want to be sure what we do while watching a meet isn't construed as "practicing" by WIAA interpretation.

Answer:       Coaches and athletes may attend a cross country meet, as spectators. Athletes may move about the course as would any spectator. Jogging the entire route would not be interpreted as “spectating” but rather as practicing on the sectional site. Coaches, with school approval, may transport athletes during the season. Coaches may also videotape the course for review with their athletes.

28. Question:     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 work out 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:

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 act 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.

29. Question:     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. Please refer to the WIAA Fall Season Regulations, “A school may change its squad make-up from one level of tournament competition to the next.”

30. Question:     At a recent meet during the countdown the official announced “Take your marks.” I don’t recall that being part of the starting commands for cross country.

Answer:       Allowed. Please refer to the WIAA Fall Season Regulations, “A school may change its squad make-up from one level of tournament competition to the next.”

31. Question:     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.

32. Question:     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.

33. Question:     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.

34. Question:      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.

35. Question:     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.

36. Question:     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.

37. Question:     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".

38. Question:     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 than 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.

39. Question:     Are we allowed to run JV boys and girls together?

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

40. Question:     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:       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.

41. Question:     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, act to move runners/spectators to shelter.

42.  Question:     A 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? I researched the NFHS Track and Field Rules. I began with Rule 8 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 4.6.5 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 4.6.5 Situation B 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.

Nike Team Nationals / Post Season Competitions


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.

Sportsmanship/Verification Form

WI Adaptations to NFHS Rules

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