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Top 5 important terms cross country fans should know

 – Photo by The Daily Targum

Unfortunately, cross country is not a spectator sport. For all the reasons that it isn’t a spectator sport, only makes it better for the participating runners. 

Unlike most sports, cross country courses can be on any terrain in any kind of environment. Combined with the runners only passing a certain spot a few times, if at all, it would be nearly impossible to find a good place to put bleachers. 

This has lead to a lack of devoted fans of one of the most exciting sports, and an obvious side effect of that, a lack of knowledge about the sport. 

Here are the most important things to know while becoming a cross country fan.

Firstly, any fan should know how a race is scored. A team can consist of upward of 12 runners, but only the first seven finishers will have an impact on the score, according to NCAA rules. The first five finishers on a team will score points based on their overall placing. First place scores one, second place scores two and so on. 

Similarly to golf, the lower the score the better. This creates an important role for the sixth and seventh finishers on a team. They can’t score points, so they displace their opponents. If the sixth and seventh finishers place higher overall than the other team’s top five, it will force their opponents to score more points. 

This list of the top five most important terms of cross country will help any new fan learn the ropes of the sport.


Cross country is all about consistency, making runners obsessed with their splits. A split is the time it takes to run a certain distance within a race. In cross country, it's usually a mile. A negative split would mean the runner is speeding up, and a positive split would mean a runner is slowing down. 


Two synonymous phrases, personal record and personal best. It's one of the main motivators of cross country runners. Runners strive to improve every time they go out, so having the knowledge that you ran faster than you ever have before gives you an unbelievable feeling. 

Leg turnovers

The speed at which you take strides. If the runner spends more time with their feet pushing them than with them in the air it will speed them up dramatically. If a runner has the capability to run distances, but their leg turnovers aren’t fast, they won’t be able to compete at higher levels.

Low stick 

Senior Cole Pschunder mentioned that he wants to be "a low stick for (the Rutgers men's cross country team) in our competitions so that I can help the team’s scoring."

A low stick is a runner who the team can rely on to win races. Once the team knows they have secured at least one runner who will finish toward the top of the race, giving them very few points, the other runners can run the race with more comfort, allowing them to have higher finishes. 


A personal favorite. In Swedish it translates to "speed work." It's a type of training run with changing pace and sometimes changing terrain. Runners will run for several minutes at a comfortable pace, but when it's time they will increase to a pace closer to a race pace. After a few minutes of race pace, it will slow back down to a slower, more comfortable pace, just to have the cycle repeat. 

This list will come into play throughout this week as the Scarlet Knights prepare for the Metropolitan Championships on Friday. 

For updates on the Rutgers men's cross country team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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