Cross Country Rules

Basic rules for TX Cross Country

Course Length

For 6A which Lake Travis is in most high school courses races are 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) for both boys and girls but depending on the race it can vary from 2 miles or 4k.

The Start

Start of a typical cross country race has all runners starting at same time when an official fires a gun to signal the start. The runners group by teams from a starting line marked with lanes or boxes. An official, in front of the starting line, uses a pistol/horn to indicate the start. If runners collide and fall within the first 100 metres, officials can call the runners back and restart. Crossing the line or starting before the starting pistol is fired most often results in disqualification of the runner.

The Finish

The course ends at a finish line located at the beginning of the chute that keeps athletes single-file in order of finish and facilitates accurate scoring. Depending on the timing and scoring system, finish officials may collect a small slip from each runner’s bib, to keep track of finishing positions.

Chip timing is now more common in which each runner attaches a transponder with RFID to his or her shoe. When the runner crosses the finish line an electronic pad records the chip number and matches to the runner to a database. Chip timing allows officials to use checkpoint mats throughout the race to calculate split times, and to ensure runners cover the entire course.


Scores are determined by summing the top five individual finishing places on each team. In most races a team will field 7 or more runners with the top 5 scoring. Points are awarded to the individual runners of eligible teams, equal to the position in which they cross the finish line (first place gets 1 point, second place gets 2 points, etc.). The points for these runners are summed, and the low score wins. Individual athletes, and athletes from incomplete teams are excluded from scoring. Ties can be broken in favor of the team whose next non-scoring member finishes first. The lowest possible score in a five-to-score match is 15 (1+2+3+4+5), achieved by a team’s runners finishing in each of the top five positions.

Year End

After the season all teams qualify for Districts.  At Districts there are Varsity, JV and 9th grade races.  Only varsity runners advance.  The top 3 teams advance from Districts to Regions. Any runner in the top 10 finishers also advance if their team does not qualify.

At Regions the top 4 teams advance to State and the top 10 runners not part of a state qualifying team also qualify for state.  So individual state qualifiers may be out of the top 10 finishers.

At State the race is run with standard rules applying.