Watching a Meet

Never been to a track meet before? Then you’re in for some excitement. But it helps to know a bit more about what’s going on.

Common Order of Events
Field Events
4×800 Meter Relay
100 Meter Hurdles
100 Meter Dash
4×200 Meter Relay
1600 Meter Run
4×100 Meter Relay
400 Meter Dash
300 Meter Hurdles
800 Meter Dash
200 Meter Dash
3200 Meter Run
4×400 Meter Relay

A track meet is composed of field events (Long Jump, Standing Long jump, High jump, Shot Put) as well as individual and relay races on the track.

It’s good to know where you are in the meet schedule so that you’ll have an idea of when your student may compete. Some meets have specific event times, but other meets just follow a rolling schedule.  Meets differ in who goes first in each event, Men/Women and Varsity/JV. Other meets are all relay races, so the order of track events is completely different.

FIELD EVENTS are usually going on simultaneously and begin earlier than running events.


“TRACK!”: GET OFF THE TRACK NOW! There are runners coming!  Parents usually have no business being on the track anyway, but you may be helping set up hurdles at a home meet and this often starts while a distance race is being run. If you hear this, please get out of the way!

First/Second/Third Call: Athletes are required to check in with the meet clerk prior to their event. Announcements are made on the loudspeaker to give athletes time to make their way over there.

2-Command start: Runners take your mark, followed by the gun.

3-Command start: Runners to your mark, set, followed by the gun.

False start: Leaving the starting line before the gun sounds. Another gunshot will be fired and the race will be started over again.

Staggered Start: A staggered start is used in running events where each participant or relay team must run the entire race in the same lane. Because the distance covered from start to finish in lanes 2 through 8 increases with the circumference of the turns, the participants in lanes 2 through 8 start the race ahead of the athlete in lane 1. The amount of the head start is determined by the lane and the number of turns in the race.

Waterfall Start: A waterfall start is typically used for the 1600M and 3200M runs. The athletes in lanes 1 and 2 begin on the normal starting line. Those athletes in lanes 3 through 8 are afforded a 2 to 5 meter start advantage.

Relays: A single race where each of 4 team members runs an equal and specific distance.
4x100M – Each athlete runs 100 meters
4x200M – Each athlete runs 200 meters
4x400M – Each athlete runs 400 meters
Leg: The portion of a relay run by an individual. 1st Leg, 2nd Leg, 3rd Leg and Anchor Leg.

Heats: A heat is a grouping of athletes with similar times competing in the same running event. Times from each heat are compiled to determine the true winners of the event.

Pace: Running speed over a particular distance

Kick: A burst of speed at the finish of the race

Personal Record (PR): Best ever performance on a given course.


Points are scored by placing in the top 3 places for each event. First place receives more points than third place. The points are totaled as the meet progresses. After all events are completed, the team with the most points wins.


Read details about each event, including US and World Records at

Getting more out of a track meet as a parent