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Fan's Guide to Track and Field Page 3 of 5 (Field)

Track & Field1- History & Essentials
2- Track
3- Field
4- Diagram of Track
5- Special Events and Cross Country



Field events include throwing and jumping events.


The goal is to throw the different objects, called weights, as far as possible. These objects are the discus, shot, and javelin. In most competitions, the throwers have three chances to throw or “put” their implements. The athletes with the top 8 or 10 furthest throws advance to the finals, where they have three additional chances to increase their distance. If a thrower steps out of the shot or disc circle, or over the javelin line, or if the implement lands outside the boundary lines, the throw is not marked. All throws are measured by placing a measuring tape at the edge of the circle (discus and shotput) or the end of scratch line (javelin throw) and setting it where the implement landed. The throws are the most technical events in track and field. Throwers use their leg strength to spin, run, and balance, and their upper body strength to release the weights.


The discus is a flat, round object weighing about 2 pounds for girls and 3.5 pounds for boys. Discus throwers perform a complex spin with their arms spread out at shoulder height and the discus held in one hand. When the discus is released, the energy from the rotational pattern of the spin sends it flying. The discus requires technique, balance, speed, and strength. The spin is the same for all skill levels and for both men and women, but the release can differ. Some throwers use the left foot as a block and push against it with their body so their energy goes into the discus, while others reverse and switch feet at the end to give the discus an extra push.


The shot is a round metal ball, weighing about 9 pounds for girls and 12 pounds for boys. The shot is “put” by using either the “glide” or “spin” technique. With the glide, the athlete faces away from the throwing area, crouches, and leans over one foot. He then pushes back and turns, uses his legs to explode upwards, and releases the shot at about a 40-degree angle. The spin is similar to discus, but the shot is held with the arm bent at the elbow and held close to the neck. If the shot is in the right hand, the thrower spins counterclockwise.

Javelin Throw

The javelin is a long metal spear about 8 feet long and 1.5 pounds. The javelin thrower gains speed on a runway and throws the javelin before reaching the scratch line at the end. If the thrower steps over the scratch line or the javelin does not land with the metal tip in the ground, the throw is invalid. Javelin throwers run sideways as they hold the center of the javelin, or grip, at an arm’s length away from the head. Nearing the scratch line, they perform a hopstep, plant a foot, and release the javelin.


The jumping events are made up of horizontal jumps (long jump and triple jump) and vertical jumps (high jump and pole vault). In horizontal jump events, the athlete that jumps the farthest wins; in vertical jump events, the athlete that clears the bar at the highest height wins. Jumping events are technical and rely on both speed and jumping ability.

Long Jump

The long jump is the simplest jumping event. It requires speed and the ability to leap forward. The long jump takes place on a runway with a sand pit at the end. There is a board or white line, which the athletes cannot step over, 8 to 12 feet before the sand pit on the runway. Long jumpers are incredibly fast, and convert running speed into jumping distance. Some athletes use the “hitchkick,” where the athletes rotate their arms and legs while in the air. Others use the “hang,” where they hold their arms and legs back after takeoff then snap forward and land on their bottoms in the sand. The jump is measured from the end of the board to the closest point at which the jumper lands in the sand. Jumpers have three attempts to log their best jump. The top jumpers advance to the finals and have three more attempts to increase their distance.

Triple Jump

The triple jump is also known as the “hop, skip, and jump.” The goal is to keep speed from the run through three consecutive jumps. The athlete usually has a short sprint and takes off from a board placed further from the sand pit than in the long jump. The jump is measured from the end of the board to the closest mark the athlete makes in the sand. The triple jump has three phases. In the first phase (hop), the athlete cycles the foot he took off the board with to land on the same foot for the second phase. The second phase (skip) is the hardest, because it involves holding the jump in the air and landing on the opposite foot. The last phase (jump) is a powerful long jump that ends with the “hang technique.” The best jumpers can jump the same distance for each phase, hold each jump in the air as long as possible, and quickly push off the ground between phases.

High Jump

In the high jump, athletes have three chances to jump over a bar. Each time an athlete clears the bar, it is raised and the athlete has three more chances at the next height. High jumpers run in a J-shape towards the bar and use the “Fosbury flop” technique, in which they jump off their outside foot when approaching the bar, throw the head and shoulders over the bar, arch the back, and quickly bring the rest of the body over the bar and land on the pit (the soft mats behind the bar and poles). To “clear” the bar, the athlete must jump over the bar without knocking it over. The bar can be hit, but if it falls off, the athlete must try again. If the last two jumpers fail at the same height, the athlete that cleared the previous height in the fewest attempts wins.

Pole Vault

Pole vaulting is also a jumping event. The object of pole vaulting is to use a long, skinny, fiberglass pole to lift one’s body completely over a bar. Like high jump, the bar usually starts at a low height (7 to 8 feet for women, 9 to 10 feet for men), and the athletes have three chances to clear the bar. If they go under, around, or knock over the bar, it counts as a miss. Once an athlete has three misses at the same height, he is finished competing. If any athletes clear the height, the bar is raised three to six inches, and the remaining athletes continue. Athletes place their hands near the top of their poles and hold the pole near their hips. The pole is held at an upward slant, so the bottom of the pole is in the air. The pole vaulter sprints down the runway and “plants” the bottom of the pole into a metal box on the ground in front of the crossbar. The pole bends as it propels the athlete upwards. The athlete goes over the bar upside down and feet first, and the rest of the body curls over the bar. The athlete then falls and lands on the pit.

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