What's the rule?

So you think you know the rules? Test yourself, thanks to the Professional Development Committee and member Mark Young. As you encounter situations during meets and want to make suggestions for situations to the Professional Development Committee, please contact Young.

The format is simple. Each week, a new situation is presented below and you can determine if the rule has been correctly applied. The ruling is published the following week. When you answer the questions, consider both college and high school rules.

An archive of previous years is available from the sidebar.


April 30
Situation: In the high jump, A1 hits the crossbar and it bounces on the supports, but does not fall off them until after A1 has landed and stepped out of the landing pit. Is the jump good or is it a miss? 

Ruling here next week.

April 23
Situation: In the Javelin throw, A3's throw lands within the sector, but lands flat. The event official calls the throw a foul since it did not land at an angle, point first. A3's coach protests the ruling. What should the referee rule? As always, refer to both NFHS and NCAA rules.
Ruling: NFHS 6.8.11 requires that the javelin throw be measured from the edge of the first point of contact made by the javelin to the toe board. So a flat throw would be measured from the first spot of contact made by the javelin to the ground, so the throw would be legal.
On the other hand, NCAA 6.10.1 states that a "javelin making obvious and irrefutable first contact with the ground other than with the metal head, shall be a foul throw." So, the official was correct for NCAA competition.  

April 16
Situation: During the boys 4 x 400 meter relay, A4 is leading and at about 5 meters before the finish line, A4 knocks the baton out of his own hand with his knee. He recovers quickly to catch it before reaching the finish line. Result? Is the result any different if he catches the baton after he crosses the finish line?
Ruling: In this situation, if A4 has recovered the baton without interfering with anyone, and finishes the race with the baton in his/her hand, Team A has legally completed the relay. NFHS 5.10.6, NCAA 5.9.
    If A4 does not regain control of the baton until after the finish line, Team A will be disqualified as A must be in control of the baton when he/she finishes the race NFHS 5.10.6, NCAA5.9(f)

April 9
Situation: In a distance event, A1, who is leading the other competitors by 10 meters, falls just prior to the finish line and rolls across the line without without interfering with any other competitors. Result?
Ruling: If A1's torso crosses the finish line before any other competitors, A1 wins. NFHS 5.8.1. If chips are being used then the determine factor is when the chip crosses the line. NCAA 5.3.1 renders the same result.

April 2
Situation: After the conclusion of the preliminaries in a field event with the order of jumping or throwing having been reset in the reverse order from the completion of the preliminaries with the best qualifying performance being awarded the last competitive effort, A1 is excused to compete in another event. When A1 returns, the competition has completed all but the last attempt in the Finals. A1 is allowed to take all 3 attempts in the Final or only 1? As always, respond for both NFHS and NCAA Rules. 
Ruling: Under NFHS Rules, the competitor would be allowed all 3 attempts in the Finals, as NFHS 6.2.3 allows the head event judge to "change the order of competition in the preliminary or final rounds."
    Under NCAA Rules, the answer would be only 1 attempt. NCAA 6.1.6 states, "Should a competitor miss a turn in the final rounds, the head judge shall refuse permission for the competitor to take that turn."   

March 26
Situation: In the discus, A1's throw hits the side of throwing cage, but deflects to a landing area inside the sector lines. Is the throw fair or foul? Remember to consider both NCAA and NFHS rules.
Ruling: Under NFHS Rule 6.6.9(e) this is a FOUL throw. The exact opposite result (FAIR)  occurs under NCAA 6.9.2 (I, note).

March 19
Situation: With temperatures hovering at or below freezing and snow on the ground, one or more members of Team A's 4 x 400 meter relay team show up at the starting line wearing gloves. The clerk directs them to remove the gloves as they are not permitted in relays. The team members protest that the gloves are worn only for protection from the cold and they do not contain any material which would increase the ability to hold on to the baton. Ruling??
Ruling: Gloves are not allowed, period! NFHS5.10.5, NCAA 5.9(b)

Feb 12
Situation: In a 4 x 400 relay race, A3 receives the baton from A2 and crosses the lane line before leaving the exchange zone. Violation or not? 
Ruling: Per NFHS 5.10.11, after the outgoing runner has received the baton within the lane in the exchange zone, cutting for the pole is permitted provided no other competitor is impeded and the race is not being run in lanes. Similarly, NCAA 5.8.6 directs outgoing runners to move to the inside once interference is no longer possible.

Feb 5
Situation: Due to conditions in the area, the shot put circle is wet when A1 steps in to it. A1 steps out of the circle to wipe off his/her feet and then re-enters the circle for the throw.  All of these actions are completed within one minute from the time A1's name was called. Stepping out of the circle once in it is allowable, or not. As usual, reference both NFHS and NCAA rule in responding.
Ruling: According to NFHS 6.6.9, this would be allowed provided that the one minute had not elapsed and the competitor had not actually started his/her effort. Similarly, NCAA 6.8.2 would allow this, provided the competitor and used up the one minute and had not started the put.

Jan 29
Situation: A1 starts the 400 meter run in lane 2 and runs in this lane until the final straightaway. A1 wins the race but finishes in lane 4.  The coach of Team B protests that A1 should be disqualified for failing to finish in the assigned lane. Ruling? As always, refer to both NFHS and NCAA rules when responding. 
Ruling: A1 should be disqualified. Both NFHS 5.12.1(d) and NCAA 5.5.2(c) require that in races run entirely in lanes, the competitor must both start and finish in their assigned lane. Thus, although there is no penalty for running out of one's lane on a straightaway, a competitor must finish in the lane started in.

Jan 22
Situation: On the last leg of a relay, A4 is running in the inside lane. As A4 comes out of the final curve and enters the straight, he turns his head causing him to lose his balance and he stumbles across the inside border. A4 is observed taking 4 or 5 steps before he regains his balance and re-enters Lane 1. No interference with other competitors is observed. What ruling should be made by the Head Umpire and Referee?
Ruling: Per NFHS 5.12.1there is no violation as A4 was on the straightaway and there was no interference with another runner.  Similarly, NCAA 5.5.3(note) would not penalize A4 unless an advantage were gained.

Jan 15
Situation: An athlete from Team A qualifies for the final in the Long Jump. The athlete requests permission to leave the Long Jump to compete in another event prior to the start of the finals. The Long Jump official has re-ordered  the jumpers in reverse order of best performance as required by rule. When athlete A1, who had checked out of the event to compete in another, returns, the official informs A1 that he/she missed their first attempt in the finals and so he/she has only two attempts remaining. The coach of Team A protests that A1 should be allowed all three attempts, even if out of order. What should the result be? Respond for both NCAA and NFHS rules.   
Ruling: If A1 is a high school athlete, the head event judge will allow him/her to jump out of order in the Finals except that the person who is scheduled to jump last may await until after A1 jumps tot use their entitled last position in the order. NFHS 6.2.3. 
   If A1 is a college athlete, the athlete must take their turn in the prescribed order or forfeit that turn per NCAA 6.1.6(a).

Jan 8
Situation: In a 500 meter race indoors, the starter uses only a two command start ("On your marks" and then the gun). Is this proper or not? As usual, respond for both NFHS and NCAA rules. Hint: there IS a difference.  
Ruling: NFHS Rule 5.7.2 requires that the starting commands for races or opening relay legs of less than 800 meters outdoors and 600 meters indoors shall be "On your marks", then "Set", then the gun.
    NCAA Rule 5.1.5 requires that same sequence in all sections of 500 meters or longer, IF any competitor is using is using starting blocks in any section of the event. If no competitor is using starting blocks, then the starter shall give only one verbal command, "on your marks", prior to the firing of the pistol.  

Jan 2
Situation: A1 betters B1's triple jump on the last attempt, but inadvertently touches the runway with the drag foot during the step. B1's coach protests that A1 fouled on this last attempt and that it should not be permitted. Ruling? As always, respond for both NFHS and NCAA rules. 
Ruling: There is no foul. Neither NFHS 6.9.10 nor NCAA 6.7.1 prohibits the inadvertent drag.

Dec 18
Situation: A one-turn stagger is used to start the 800 meter run. A1, running in lane two, breaks for the inside lane two strides before reaching the break line and is disqualified. The coach of Team A protests that runners are allowed to run two steps inside their assigned lane before being disqualified. Ruling?
Ruling: Protest denied. NFHS 5.12.2 clearly stipulates that the runner must run the entire distance designated prior to cutting in. NCAA 5.5.2(d) similarly requires disqualification of a runner who does not cross the break line within his or her assigned lane.


Dec 4
Situation: In the high jump, A1 hits the crossbar and it bounces but does not become dislodged until after A1 has exited the pit. Legal jump or not?
Ruling: It is not a legal jump.  NFHS Rule 6.4.14(a) states that it is a foul if the competitor "displaces the crossbar in an attempt to clear it." There is no provision for any time limit. Similarly, NCAA 6.5.3(a) states that it shall be a failed attempt when "the crossbar is displaced in an attempt to clear it."

Nov 27
Situation: Prior to the competitor's put, A1 takes a position in the back of the circle and shifts the shot between the right and left hand several times. As the shot returns to the putting hand on the last shift, A1 immediately begins the glide across the circle. During the movement through the circle the shot is held close to the chin and the hand doesn't drop during the putting action. The shot lands within the sector and A1 exits through the back half of the circle. B1's coach protests that A1 did not come to a complete stop before commencing the putting action.  
Ruling: Legal put. NFHS 6.7.8 requires the competitor to start from a stationary position, referring to stance, not hand movement, and is intended to eliminate body momentum from aiding the throw. Similarly, NCAA 6.8.1 requires the competitor to start from a stationary position with no reference to hand movement.

Nov 20
Situation: A1 has taken three running approaches to the high jump. Realizing that time is running short and he/she will not be able to initiate another attempt within the one-minute time limit, A1 yells "pass" to the Event Judge. What should the ruling be?
Ruling: It shall be ruled as a failed attempt. For high school, a miss shall be recorded. NFHS 6.2.2(a) requires that a competitor notify of a pass before the start of the trial clock. Similarly, for colleges, NCAA 6.4.3 requires the competitor to indicate a pass "before the start of the time limit."

Nov 13
SituationIn a cross-country meet where transponders/computerized chips are being used on the shoes, the timing operator noticed that A1 finished less than .1 seconds ahead of B1. a) The chief finish evaluator reviewed the video and saw that the lead foot of A1 crossed before the lead foot of B1. b) The lead finish evaluator reviewed the video and was unable determine which foot crossed first. c) The finish evaluator reviewed the video and saw that lead foot of B1 crossed before the lead foot of A1. What should the results be?

Ruling: According to NFHS 8.3.3      a) A1 wins,  b) A1 wins, c) B1 wins.
    According to NCAA 5.3.1, "The runners shall be placed in the order in which any part of their torso reached the perpendicular plane of the nearer edge of the finish line."
     According to NCAA 5.12.2(b) , "The times of all competitors shall be determined by viewing the official image from the FAT camera ," and (e) "The ranked order of competitors separated by not more than 1/10th of a second shall be verified."
    Thus, for our scenario, we need to look at the picture to see who wins. 

Nov 6
Situation: Team A has 6 runners competing. A5 runs off the course. Runners A1-A4 were the top finishers in the race. Runner A6 finishes last. The referee a) disqualifies the entire team and team runners displace other runners for scoring (except A5), b) disqualifies the entire team and Team A runners do not displace other runners, or c) disqualifies A5 and uses A6 for scoring Team A? As usual, respond regarding both NCAA and NFHS rules.
Ruling: The correct answer is c). The only member of Team A who has done anything incorrect is A5, who should be disqualified. A6 is then the 5th scorer for Team A. NFHS 8.7(f) NCAA 5.5.3(f)

Oct 23
SituationAfter the cross-country race begins, runners from Team A join arms to form a barrier forcing other competitors to run around them . After 200 meters, the runners drop their arms and run a regular race without incident. By the end of the race, two runners from Team A advance to the next level of competition. Team A's total score afforded the entire team a first place award and the chance to advance. Should the referee (a) advance all team members, (b) disqualify the team, but advance the two individuals, or (c) disqualify all members of Team A?  As usual, respond for both NFHS and NCAA rules.  
Ruling: As all members of Team A participated in the arm locking, they would all be guilty of interfering with another as proscribed by NFHS 4-6-3, which calls for disqualification pursuant to NFHS 8-7(b). Team A is disqualified.
    Similarly, NCAA 5.5.2 would find Team A guilty of flagrantly impeding other runners, and therefore disqualify all of Team A. 

Oct 9
Situation: The runners are lined up for a cross country race and one runner anticipates the gun and starts too soon. What consequence?
RulingAccording to NCAA 5.2.1d, "...in Cross-country, a competitor shall be warned for the first false start and shall be disqualified only after the competitor has been charged with 2 false starts."
    NFHS 8.4.4a "For an unfair start, the starter or assistant starter shall call the runner by firing the starting device." There is apparently no provision for a false start, which there most assuredly is in the track section. 

Oct 2
Situation: In a cross-country race, A1, A2, A3, A4 and A5 are wearing maroon bottoms with a white top and a maroon sash. A6 is wearing white bottoms and a maroon t-shirt  and A7 is wearing blue bottoms and a blue top. The school colors are maroon and white. The coach claims all uniforms were issued by the school. What ruling for NFHS and NCAA rules?

Ruling: By NFHS rules, A6 and A7 should be warned that they have to match the other 5.. Failure to comply would result in disqualification. NFHS 8.6.1b. and accompanying note regarding the PENALTY.
    NCAA 4.3.2 requires that all cross-country team members must wear uniforms clearly indicating through color, logo and combination of all outer garments that members are of the same team. Again, a warning should be issued to A6 and A7. Failure to comply could result in disqualification. 

Sept 25
Situation: There is a tie for the team title at the conference cross-country championship . How should the tie be broken. Remember to respond for both NFHS and NCAA rules. 
Ruling: For competitions governed by NFHS rules, "ties in team scoring shall be resolved by comparing the 6th place finishers from the tying teams." The team with the higher placing 6th place finisher wins. If one team does not have a 6th place finisher, the team with one wins. NFHS 9.2.4. For competitions governed by NCAA rules, the tie is broken by comparing "in order the place finish of each of the 5 scoring members of the tied teams. The team with the majority of winning comparisons shall be awarded the higher place."

Sept 18
Situation: Computerized chips/transponders are being used to determine times in a cross-country. Runner A dives across the line to barely edge out Runner B. When the official results are posted, Runner A had the second fastest time, but the judges had awarded her/him first place because his/her torso had crossed the finish line first. Was this the proper result? As always, answer for both NFHS and NCAA rules.
Ruling: No under NFHS rules. NFHS 9.3.3 requires using the chip/transponder results when that system is being used. In 2016, Rule 9-3-3 was revised to recommend the use of a video or photograph to verify the order of finish in races in which the timing system indicates a differential of one-tenth of a second or less. Having the video as a back-up and a process in place for problems that may arise from the use of a computerized transponder/chip system is a good solution, NFHS said.
The NCAA citation is 8.5.6(f). This requires the photo review of places separated by less than 1/10th of a second.