Thread Color On Running Shorts Is The Most Important Sporting Issue Of Our Age

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I don't know if any post I've written for this site has generated more public feedback than the controversial tale of the disqualified runner with white thread in his shorts. You people really care about high school cross country.

I got several angry emails from readers incensed about the decision. In case you're wondering, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association does not care what you think. They refused to overturn the disqualification of a Hereford High harrier (Yeah, I ran a little x-country back in the day. Why do you ask?) who wore black shorts with white seams during a county meet, in clear violation of the National Federation of Track and Cross Country Rules. Hey, rules is rules! Honestly, I have no problem with that. The question is why is there a rule about stitching in the first place? No one seems to have a good answer for that.

The Hereford runner's outfit would have been OK a year ago, said Becky Oakes, assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis. But the NFHS then voted to bar runners from wearing visible undergarments of more than one color ... Oakes defended the new ruling, saying that conformity among team members is paramount.

"Your cross country uniform is supposed to say that 'I'm from high school XYZ,' " she said. "Philosophically, that's what 'team' is all about. The [multicolored] Spandex undergarment began to get away from that."


Yes, I can see the confusion. Except that uni-colored Spandex garments don't seem get away from that, since they don't have to match the team's uniform colors and everyone on the team doesn't have to wear them to stay in sync. It's an idiotic rule and judging by your complaints, I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Do you know who the official was who made this call? Or who to contact at whatever officiating body put on this event? I think they need to hear the public's opinion directly.


Yes, his name is "Steve Smith." (Yeah, right.) Trust me, he's aware of the public's opinion.

Out here in sunny California we had a situation a few years back when a kid on a relay team wore a headband, (in the schools colors) and once the team won the opposing team's coach made a big deal out of it. It was resolved in favor of the kid w/ the headband. Other numbskull penalties I've heard: for girls wearing the wrong color hair ties to hold their hair back, and an elite highschool runner during the T&F Masters Meet wearing a necklace with a cross that the CIF had not sanctioned... all of these idiotic punitive calls were over turned.

What does this teach people? Nothing but how to be a nit picking bean counter! Where does it lead: to bitterness.
Maybe with enough complaints the Baltimore school will be given its trophy back.


Actually, the coach of Towson (the school that won the title as a result of the DQ) says his team is awful broken up about it. Not enough to give back the trophy, but still they feel awful.

I used to be a huge track/XC guy back in HS (I have the jacked up knee to prove it). I can assure you, stupid rules absolutely abound in HS regulations of individual sports. It really makes one wonder where the brains are of the people who run these things. Among the idiocy of Massachusetts rules regarding XC/Track:

- 6 state rule: Schools could only compete in meets in which 6 or less states are represented, unless they acquire a waiver (6 states in New England). Most top athletes ran national meets anyway, just not for their school.

- Dual meets: because in track and field, the best way to settle who the best athletes are is make them run 8 individual meets a spring to determine a "league champ". And then have a league championship meet anyway, even though the MIAA recognized the dual meet champ as the official league winner. Thanks to awesome scheduling, in a span of 2 weeks, I ran 4 1 mile races (all around 4:50), 2 two miles, 2 800 meter races, and my coach put me in a B heat of the 4x400 meters cause I guess I hadn't raced enough. I was never the same and I wasn't the only one. And I never went under 5:00 in the mile again.

- Shorts, yep heard that one before.

- My personal favorite as an athlete was the ridiculous difference of standard for sectional qualifying for girls and guys. Distance races for guys in track usually consisted of 10-15 qualifiers. Girls races? Normally around 25. Apparently this was completely fair to the higher powers.....

Essentially, HS sports regulations are a joke.

And there you have it. Next time you meet a high school cross country rules official I suggest you spit in their face. (Or at least send them a strongly worded letter.)


Officials defend cross country uniform rule and
Losing by a thread [and photo via Baltimore Sun]
Earlier: Improper Stitching Costs Cross Country Team A Title