A Guide to Competing – Track & Field: Cross Country and Road Running
Getting your head around the various ways in which athletes can compete is a bit complicated at first, so the guide below should help to explain some of that complexity. If you’ve never competed before, one of the things that will strike you is just how friendly and supportive the competitions are. Although winning is clearly the goal, you’ll see that there is as much emphasis on individual performance and improving personal bests, which makes it very inclusive.
Leagues and Open Competitions, and Qualification
Open competitions are just that; open, which means that you are responsible for enrolling yourself with the hosting organisation. Oxford City holds a number of Open competitions – all of which are on our website – but other clubs and regional organisations (like SEAA) also host many competitions, which you’d access through online enrolment. Oxfordshire County Championship is an open event, so do look out for these dates. You can find them all on Google and they’re listed on the Power of 10, the national database of athletes, competitions and results. https://www.thepowerof10.info/ Some of these competitions have a qualifying standard, particularly those at National level.
League Competitions are between clubs, and our athletes will be competing for Oxford City Athletics Club, amassing points which determine our position in the relevant league (some of which lead to promotion… or demotion). There are a number of these for Juniors, Seniors and Veterans, across the main groups (T&F, Cross Country etc). There are two types of entries for these competitions: scoring and non-scoring. Each event has two scoring athletes – A String and B String, and it is the position of the athletes in each of these scoring events that gain the team points. We are also able to enter non-scoring athletes into each event, the numbers for which vary from league to league. Team Managers are responsible for organising each team, and entering the athletes for every event in each of the matches. League rules state that we must put our strongest athletes in the scoring events, but they do try to make sure people get the opportunity to compete in their favourite events, balanced with the need to fill each space in the team.
Although the scoring events are important for the club’s position, the non-scoring entries and events are often extremely competitive, and every non-scoring event is important to individuals, and will be entered onto the Powerof10, just as for a scoring position.
English Schools is worth calling out as an exception. This is a national competition for Secondary School pupils, and this is organised by English Schools, by county. Your county is determined by the location of the school, not where you reside or the location of your club. Because some counties are far bigger with many more residents than others, there are four different groups, each of which competes for their own cup. However, each individual is competing against everyone so, should they win, they would be national champion. Oxfordshire belongs to Group C, which includes Bedfordshire and Luton; Cambridgeshire; Dorset; Durham Gloucestershire; Humberside; Lincolnshire; Norfolk; Oxfordshire; Somerset; Suffolk; Warwickshire Wiltshire. Group C counties are entitled to take 32 athletes, each of whom has to have attained the necessary Entry Standard (see English Schools for details). Obtaining the standard does not automatically qualify you for the Championships.
Here’s the link for English Schools https://www.esaa.net/
This is the link for Oxfordshire English Schools https://oxfordshireathletics.org.uk/schools
Multi-events competition is slightly different: each county selects a team of 4 for each age group, who then enter a regional competition. The best teams and the best two athletes (not in a winning teams) then qualify for the English Schools multi-events final, held in September.
Track & Field Junior Leagues
Sportshall enables year round athletics for all juniors, and is a friendly and lively way for junior athletes to remain competing indoor during the winter months, especially if they are not cross country runners. Events are adapted for indoor, but there is a nice mix of sprints, endurance, jumping, and throwing. Sportshall has a nationally organised series of leagues, of which Oxfordshire Sportshall League is a part. The Oxfordshire league forms the basis of selection for the regional rounds UK Championships. There are normally 5 matches each winter at various indoor locations throughout Oxfordshire. Please speak to one of the junior coaches for more information. We have a team manager who will select teams for each of the winter fixtures.
Click here for more information on Sportshall athletics: http://www.sportshall.org/
QuadKids is the first entry point into competitive athletics for many children. Quadkids (the ‘Quad’ refers to four events) adopts a uniform format across the UK – two age groups of under 9 and under 11 can participate in league and open competitions doing the same four events each time – 75m sprint, long jump, 600m run, and Vortex Howler throw. This is a perfect stepping stone encompassing all the key aspects of athletics; endurance, speed, agility and strength.
For matches in the Oxfordshire and Wessex League (see below) our team manager will select 10 or 12 boys and girls in each age group to compete for points and personal bests. You can also enter Quadkids Opens – Oxford City hosts three every year which are listed on our fixture list and entry yourself online – but there are plenty of others regionally and nationally.
This is the link to the national quadkids website for more information: http://www.quadkids.org/
Oxfordshire( Junior) Track and Field League
A local Oxfordshire track and field league, which includes QuadKids and U13 – U17s (and guest U20s). This runs along the usual league competition lines, from April to September. Team Managers for the different age groups organise the entries for each match, and will support the athletes on the day. All junior athletes will be contacted by the relevant team managers prior to the start of each season, and before each match to check availability and event preferences, which they will attempt to meet as best they can.
Wessex (Junior) Track and Field League
A southern regional track and field, for U13-U17s (and guest U20s), also held in the summer. This is organised along the same lines as the Oxfordshire Junior Track and Field League. Because it covers a wider geographic area, the standard tends to be higher than the Oxon League.
Youth Development League (YDL)
This is a nationwide but regionally organised track and field league, with regional and national finals at the end of each season. This league is for U17s and U20s, and is organised along the usual league lines but it includes additional events not found in the local leagues – eg triple jump, hammer, steeplechase and pole vault
SAL – U17s should also see below
Track & Field Senior & Vets Leagues
Southern Athletics League (SAL)
This is an adult Senior league, for which U17s and U20s and Veterans are also eligible to compete (albeit with the usual restrictions placed by England Athletics on the number of events a younger athlete can compete in on one day). Although different age categories can compete, the events are all to the Senior Standard, so weights are not age adjusted, and hurdles are 100m and 110m for women and men respectively, at the standard height. This competition is very much about the team performance, where we aim to fill every scoring position in every event at each match, because that makes an enormous difference to overall performance in the league.
Southern Counties Veterans Athletics league
The Southern Counties Veterans Athletics League (or “Vets”) has been in existence for many years, and Oxford has one of the strongest teams in the South of England, having won the Southern title on numerous occasions. At the present we participate in the Western Division, which includes clubs from Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. The matches are similar to the Southern Athletics League, but more limited in scope – there are 4 league matches each season, they take place generally on weekday evenings, between 6.30 and 9.30pm, and each match features only a selection of events For instance match 1 may include a 100m race, 400m race and 5000m race, a long jump, high jump, shot and hammer for men and women. At the next match the events will be different – 200m, 800m, 1500m, a race walk, triple jump, pole vault, discus and javelin. There are also relays. There are different races for the age groups – V35 for over 35s, V50 for over 50s, and V60 for over 60s, so you will generally compete against your own age group, though your team manager may ask you to move down an age group to compete against younger athletes if the team needs the points. You cannot, as a younger athlete, move up an age group to compete against older athletes, for obvious reasons! The points scoring is like other leagues, and there is usually room for A and B string athletes on the track in the younger age groups, but not in the field events. The team is selected by the club’s team manager.
There are also many Open competitions for Vets throughout the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.
Cross Country Leagues – all ages
Oxfordshire Cross Country League
The Oxfordshire Cross Country League (currently sponsored by the Oxford Mail) is the only cross-country league in Oxfordshire. Each season the League organises five races at five different venues in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. Races are always scheduled on the first Sunday of the month, starting in November and ending in March. The league caters for all age groups from U9 to veterans but is only open to member clubs – athletes cannot enter as individuals. There are races for under 9s, under 11s, under 13s, under 15s, under 17s, under 20s and seniors. Veterans run with the seniors. Team and individual medals are awarded at the end of the season after the results of the final race have been gathered in.
There is more information here:
Entries are made by the club team managers at the start of the season and revised before each set of races. The league rules require managers to register athletes two weeks before each race, and in each instance the club must provide a name, date of birth, and England Athletics registration number. For that reason it is imperative that athletes make themselves known to team managers well in advance of each race so that they can be sure that they are registered both with the club and with the league (and if not previously registered, then with England Athletics as well).
The Chiltern Cross Country League caters for athletic clubs in the North West Home Counties, specifically Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. OCAC is currently in Division 1. The league comprises five races, run in five different locations – starting in November and finishing in February. The Chiltern league age groups comprise: U11, U13, U17, U20, seniors and veterans.
Races are always scheduled on Saturdays. Team and individual medals are awarded at the end of the season after the results of the final race have been gathered in.
There is more information here:
Entries are made by the club team managers at the start of the season and revised before each set of races. The league rules require managers to register one week before each race. Again athletes must make themselves known to team managers well in advance of each race so that they can be sure that they are registered both with the club and with the league.
Cross-Country – National Competitions, Schools and Relays
In addition to the leagues, there are many opportunities to compete in regional and national competitions, as well as schools’ competitions and cross country relay events. National and regional events are generally for club or county teams only, so entries have to be made by the relevant team manager. Schools also have a busy cross-country calendar, with parallel local, county and national cross-country races held for schools. Entries will be organised by your school’s own PE staff. There are also a small number of cross-country relay races, and again entry is made by club team managers.
Road Running – all ages
Road races take place throughout the year, catering mainly for senior and veteran men and women. But there are also very popular road relay races for junior athletes, notably the Oxfordshire Road Relays, SEAA and National Road Relays, where there has generally been a large OCAC representation across all age groups in recent years. The club competes in most of the major Road Relay events, often also entering ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams to cater for all standards; our veteran teams in particular have been very successful at National level over the past 16 years. The Club organises one major road race each year, the Hanney 5. The race is held over a rural course, which is a well- marshalled easy-to-follow single lap race of five miles finishing on the sports field behind the Hanney Village Hall.
Most road races require individual self-enrolment, usually online, but the road running relays for teams will normally be organised by a club team manager.