Track meets are a great way to let kids explore a variety of events and are easily organized for schools or the community.
Tags: event guide
Track and field meets are typically held in the spring or summer (or winter if indoor facilities are available). They include sprints, distance races, and field events that revolve around throws and jumps. These instructions are for a low-key "open" track meet where individuals choose their events and events are scored by heat or division. If you are looking to put on a more competitive or official track and field event, you should refer to the official USATF rules and use certified officials.
Great events start weeks in advance with thorough planning and forethought. Use the following resources to prepare:
You will need a safe and accessible track for this event. A 6- or 8-lane track of 400 meters is preferable, but a smaller track can work if needed.
Typically, participants compete in groups based on age and gender. Decide on divisions based on the range of participants you expect.
We suggest you choose a range of events that include at least one sprint, long distance race, relay, throw, and jump. The number and type of events you choose will depend on time, space, and participant interest and ability.
*1500-meter run can be considered long distance for younger age divisions.
*1500-meter and 3000-meter runs can be substituted for 1 and 2-mile runs, respectively.
Here are some of the most common events to choose from:
All running events finish at the same place but may have different start lines. Check out the standard start and finish locations for each race when run on a 400-meter track.
Sprints have one runner per lane in each heat. Remind runners to stay in their lane for the whole race to avoid disqualification. You may choose to be lenient with beginners, but sprints are difficult to score if runners don't stay in their lane. Because outer lanes are longer than inner lanes, used staggered starts for the 200 and 400-meter dashes as shown here.
Middle and long distance events have runners start on a curve as shown here and instruct them to move toward the inside lane after the start. Each heat can include 15 or so runners.
Relays are made up of 4 runners per team. Relay teams in the 4x100-meter dash must stay in their own lanes. Only the first runner on each team in a 4x400-meter dash must stay in his/her own lane. Use a staggered start for both events, as shown here. Make sure to have staff on hand to line up each leg of the relay teams in their appropriate places.
Long jump participants run at full speed down a runway and jump as far as they can into a sandpit. A jump does not count if a participant steps over the takeoff board/marking located at the end of the runway; for beginners you might be forgiving of this rule. The jump is measured from the front edge of the takeoff board/marking to the nearest point of contact in the sand-filled pit. (For example, if a participant jumps and then falls backwards on their hands, the jump is measured as far as the hand marking.)
Shot put is usually performed from a circular concrete base with a toeboard at the front; an official shot put circle is not necessary. Athletes start by crouching low on one foot with their back to the toeboard and the shot held below the chin. They then twist and thrust toward the front of the circle and shove the shot forward. The athlete may touch but not go beyond the top of the toeboard. The throw is then measured from the toeboard to where the shot put first lands. Given the weight of the shot, it's important that kids are trained and supervised properly to avoid injury. Beginners can start by practicing throwing technique while standing still at the toeboard. Use these weights for children:
Establish a schedule of events, post it clearly, and make regular announcements during the meet.
Timing and scoring differs from event to event:
Awards are an optional component of the event. You can give awards to all finishers, top finishers in each heat, and/or top finishers in each division.
Have plenty of water on hand for runners.
Friendlies are simpler versions of track and field meets; there is no scoring involved and less focus on competition. Typically a Friendly is put on for 20-100 students and includes 3-4 short events that do not need to be official track and field events. For example, a Friendly could include one lap around the field race, a sprint down the field race, and a standing long jump. Students are divided into groups of 4-10 based on height, age, or ability; groups go one after the other until all students have participated before everyone moves on to the next event. The races and events are not timed, measured, or scored.
Team Scoring and Competitive Rules
If you are interested in team scoring or rules for a more competitive track and field meet, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for help with your event.
For a track and field meet with many beginners, we suggest you disallow spikes; spikes are shoes with metal spikes that improve a runner's traction. Check with the venue about their rules about spikes.
A complete list of Track & Field Event planning documents:
Event Planning Guide (pdf)
Planning Timeline (pdf)
Layout: Track Meet (pdf)
Layout: Sprint Events Starts (pdf)
Layout: Middle & Long Distance Events Starts (pdf)
Layout: Relay Events (pdf)
Heat Sheet: Track Events (pdf)
Heat Sheet: Field Events (pdf)
USATF rules (website)