2017 track and field rules changes and rationales released by NFHS

posted Aug 11, 2016, 9:10 AM by Paul Williams   [ updated Aug 11, 2016, 9:11 AM ]


NFHS has released the 2017 track and field rules changes and rationales. 

The NFHS 2017 Rule changes are also available at http://nfhs.org/media/1017125/2017-major-rules-changes-with-rationales-final.pdf 

2017 Track and Field Rules Changes

3-2-4u New


Places the responsibility of providing liquids during competition on the games committee, not the individual coaches.

Rationale: The games committee should have responsibility for providing liquids during the race and not leave up to each coach. 



The signal at the beginning of the last lap in individual races now occurs in race distances of two laps or more.

Rationale: Signifying with a bell with one lap remaining in the 800 alerts timers, place judges and FAT operators on notice, builds excitement for spectators and is a positive signal for the competitors. Updates to current trends in the sport.


Clarifies that a runner is disqualified by the starter when charged with a false start.

Rationale: The authority to disqualify a runner for a false start should be extended by rule to the starter as well as the referee.



Clarifies the mechanics used to confirm the result of an attempt when flags are not utilized by calling “fair” or “foul”.

Rationale: Clarifies field event judge’s protocol for signifying the performance result when flags are not being utilized.




Allows the placement of one American flag on each item of uniform apparel and deletes NOTE restricting flag placement.

Rationale: Remove NOTE limiting the placement of the American flag to one piece of uniform apparel as this is contradictory to the rule.

4-6-5g New


Adds receiving physical aid by any other person during a race to the list of unfair acts of assisting a competitor.

Rationale: The rule should include coverage of the actions of competitors and nonparticipating team members as well as assistance/aid from other parties.

4-6-5d, New e



A participant assisting an injured/ill competitor when an appropriate health-care professional is not available is no longer disqualified.

Rationale: Although uncommon that appropriate health-care professionals are not available to assist an injured/ill competitor, there may be occasions when a competitor is needing assistance to confirm his/her health status or to arrive to a location for health care. Should another competitor assist, such competitor shall not be disqualified, only the assisted competitor shall be disqualified for not completing the race unassisted. Reorganize rule to indicate why competitor is disqualified.



Establishes the location and spacing of cones, when used, in the absence of a curb.  

Rationale: In the absence of a curb, the placement of cones ensures the competitors run the prescribed race distance.



Deletes the requirement of separating competitors from the same team if they were to be in the same heat in the first round of competition.

Rationale: The results of running events are based on head-to-head competition and all contestants should have the opportunity to compete in the heat earned by the athlete’s place and/or qualifying times. Consistent with current trends in the sport.



Competitors in distance races (800m and greater distances) use only a standing start, remaining motionless for the start without their hand(s) touching the ground.

Rationale: Consistent with current trends in the sport. Reinforces the concept that distance races (800, 1600 or 3200) only use a standing start.

Rules 6 and 7


Reorganizes rules 6 and 7 into one rule “Field Events” to avoid duplicity in the rules, remove unnecessary language, be more concise in the presentation of the events rules and create a section on general rules for all field events.

Rationale: To combine all of the field event rules into one rule thereby eliminating the possibility of making a change in the throws and missing it in the jumps. Also eliminates duplication of definitions in the rules and unnecessary language.




Warm-ups in a field event shall not take place until the venue is declared open by the meet director and required supervision is in place. Once competition begins, except as scheduled, competitors shall not use venues or implements associated with the competition for warm-ups.

Rationale: For purposes of risk management, warm-ups in a field event may not take place until the venue is declared open and required supervision is in place. For further risk minimization for athletes, spectators, and officials involved in the event, athletes should be prohibited from picking up an implement and doing turns while other competitors are completing their throws or using the runway during the competition unless they have been called for their attempt.



Includes how trials are recorded when a legal implement breaks during competition within the rule and deletes as a NOTE.

Rationale: Clarifies how trials are recorded when a legal implement breaks during competition. More appropriate to list within rule rather than a NOTE.



Clarifies that it is a foul if a competitor touches the top or end of the stopboard before leaving the circle.

Rationale: The top or sides of the stopboard are outside of the ring and touching outside of the ring is not compliant with leaving from the back half of the circle and is a foul.



Special events which may be included in the order of competition shall be conducted under USATF Youth event rules unless state association policy determines otherwise.

Rationale: The NFHS rules allow several special events to be added to the order of events but no specific event rules are written. By utilizing USATF Youth event rules there are standard rules which are age appropriate. However, state associations may already have appropriate rules in place and this should be an option stated in the rules.



Clarifies that directional sign posts can be used with or in place of directional flags in cross country.

Rationale: Clarifies that either directional flags and/or sign posts shall be used in cross country.



Clarifies where to place the wind gauge in the horizontal jumps when there are

multiple takeoff boards used in the competition.

Rationale: Officials need guidance as to where to place the wind gauge when there are multiple takeoff boards. As the rule is currently written, it implies either having to move the wind gauge between jumps or having a second gauge. As the better jumpers will most likely use the farther board, it is logical to have the wind gauge at the location furthest from the pit.




2017 Major Editorial Changes



Clarifies the referee has the sole authority for ruling on irregularities not covered within the rules.



Clarifies the three consecutive passed heights must take place before the competitor attempts a jump.



Clarifies when the two minutes of warm-up jumps are permitted when a competitor has passed three consecutive heights with no attempted jump.




2017 Editorial Changes

4-6-1 NOTE 1, 4-6-1 NOTE 2, 5-10-9, 5-10-11, 7-5-11, 7-6-10f




2017 Points of Emphasis

1. Sportsmanship
2. Heat Acclimatization and Preventing Heat Illness 3. Use of Rubber Discus in Practice and Competition 4. NFHS Track and Field Uniform Regulations