The Sports Peakbox: cross country and track and field

Learn about the history of cross country and track and field globally and at SFU

Shot of runners sprinting during a race. One runner has a clear advantage.
Your inbox is filled to the brim with this week’s questions and answers. Photo: Jonathan Chng / Unsplash

By: Isabella Urbani, Sports Editor 

Welcome to The PeakBox. I am your host, Isabella Urbani. Each week The Peak will answer student submitted questions about sports at SFU. This week, we asked students to pose questions about cross country and track and field. 

When did track and field and cross country originate?

Track and field is a term used to describe “running, jumping for height, and throwing for distance.” Disciplines outside of running are referred to as field events. The sport of track and field has been practised for centuries. The ancient Olympic games, first recorded in 776 B.C.,  including running events, were held “in conjunction with religious festivals” and were only available for men. A federation for women in track and field would not be established until 1921. 

Nevertheless, track and field practically ceased to exist for a large period of time as it was banned by Emperor Theodosius I in A.D. 394. Finally, in Britain, the sport was rejuvenated with its first organized track meet in 1849. After that, various track organizations and clubs were established before the sport premiered at the first Olympics in 1896

Cross country began in Britain and was a training method for runners in the offseason. Originally referred to as “the paper chase,” a group of runners would drop pieces of paper along the track for a second group to chase and follow. In 1838, it became a practice across all private schools and was referred to as the Crick Run — now known as cross country.

When does the track and cross country season start at SFU?

The cross country season begins at the start of the school year in September and ends in November. The women’s cross country team were undefeated in their three regular-season meets this year, and the men have placed second in their first two meets, and third in their last. Both teams will compete in the Conference and NCAA championships to complete the season.

The track and field indoor season wont begin at SFU until January. When it concludes in March, the outdoor season will commence and be completed in May. 

How are points awarded in cross country?

Like golf, the fewer points the better! Points in cross country meets are awarded to a team based on the placement of its runners; however, only the first five runners for a team will be counted. If a player finishes first in a race, they will be awarded one point. The lowest score a team can earn is 15 points, if all five of their racers make up the top five. Nevertheless, during meets, only two races are run 6km for the women and 10km for the men. So athletes only have one opportunity to receive a perfect 15. 

Have any of SFU’s track and field athletes competed in the Olympics?

Yes! There have been many SFU track alumni that have competed in the Olympics. Most recently at the Toyko 2020 Summer Olympic Games, SFU alumni Lindsey Butterworth and Natasha Wodak represented Canada.

From Burnaby, Butterworth, won the indoor and outdoor 800m NCAA Division II titles in 2015 and won bronze in the 1500m as a freshman. At her first Olympic games, she placed 32ⁿᵈ in the 800m event. 

Wodak, hailing from Surrey, is the “second-fastest female marathoner in Canadian history.” Shes a seasoned veteran, representing Team Canada 16 times in various games, including the Olympics in Rio and Tokyo. Wodak placed 22ⁿᵈ in the 10,000m in Rio and improved to 13ᵗʰ in the marathon event in Tokyo. 

We will see you next week for the Halloween edition of our Peakbox. Until then, go clean your mailbox out. 

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