Written by SportsDayDFW.com
In Class 4A and 5A, boys and girls cross country runners will race 5 kilometers in the fall
Since girls started participating in cross country in Texas, they’ve run a shorter distance than the boys. In 1975, at the first girls state meet, they ran 1 mile, while the boys ran 2 miles.
As the times and attitudes changed, that precedent didn’t. Since the 1980s, the boys have run 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) and the girls 2 miles.
Finally those days are over, at least in Class 5A and 4A. Starting this fall, girls at those classifications will run 5 kilometers at the district, regional and state meets, a decision based on a recent vote by school superintendents.
“We’re celebrating today,” said Canyon coach Ray Baca, president of the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas.
In a letter to superintendents Tuesday, UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt shared the results of a referendum that was decided during the fall UIL executive session. Needing a simple majority to pass, 63 percent of 5A schools and 60 percent of 4A schools voted to extend the distance. Classes 3A and 2A narrowly opposed an extension, with Class A widely opposing it.
Baca and the coaches association have been working toward this goal for 12 years. He has gone to Austin at least twice a year in that span, trying to get the UIL to understand that 5K is better for the sport.
Proponents believe that the 5K provides a real distance test, that it is better for recruiting, that 2 miles does not adequately prepare an athlete for college and that keeping the race a shorter distance was a form of sexism.
The biggest reason for the dissension dealt with participation. Coaches who opposed the change worried fewer girls would participate if the distance was extended.
But that’s in the past now. Baca believes they’ll see the participation levels stay the same or increase, and soon, the lower levels could be running 5K as well.
“It took us a lot longer than we wanted it to,” he said, “but now it’s changed.”