What is Indoor Track and Field?

When most people hear the term “track and field”, they would probably think of some very well-known Olympians like Usain Bolt or running very fast in general. This would fall under the category of outdoor track and field. Apex High School has two seasons of track and field: outdoor and indoor track and field. If indoor track and field doesn’t sound familiar, then maybe you would know it better as winter track and field because the season takes place during the winter months. I took a survey of ten randomly selected students to see if they had heard of the Apex High Indoor Track and Field team. Only six out of ten responded with yes. While yes, outdoor track is more well-known, indoor track is just as important.

The two sports are very similar, except for the sprint and middle distances. High school indoor track and field has many events for athletes to compete but with a twist. Outdoor, or spring, track and field has the 100, 200, and 400 meter dashes as well as the 800 meter run. Along with this, there are 100 meter hurdles (110 for men’s) and 300 meter hurdles. But in indoor, there is the fifty-five (fifty-five meter hurdles), and 300 meter dashes, 500 and 1,000 runs. The relays and distance events remain the same with the 4×800, 4×400, 4×200, 4×100 relays and the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs. Along with this, most of the field events remain the same: high jump, long jump, triple jump, shot-put, and pole-vault. The only exception to field events is discus, which is only held in the outdoor track season.

The indoor meets are held in one of the indoor facilities in the state: JDL Fast Track—a facility built under and sponsored by JDL Castle Corporation—out of Winston-Salem. Most meets are held there, including the state meet, but others are held at schools around the county known as Polar Bear meets. These meets tend to have two to five teams competing outdoors but with the indoor distances.

Like outdoor track, there are states and nationals where an athlete must meet the qualifying times; however, they depend on what division the team is in. Apex High School is listed under 4A, meaning the qualification times are different than the qualification times in 2A. For example, the 500 meter run, the women’s qualifying time for the state meet in 4A is 1:20.0 (1:20.24 hand-timed) but in 2A, it is 1:27.0 (1:27.24 hand-timed). The men’s 500 meter run qualifying time is 1:07.5 (1:07.74 hand-timed) in 4A and 1:11.0 (1:11.24 hand-timed) in 2A.[1]

The biggest notable difference is the conditions of the weather. In the spring season, athletes run with the elements, such as wind, humidity, and the sun either in or against their favor. Whereas the indoor facility has more of a controlled environment with air that contains less water vapor, which makes a big difference when it comes to preparing for a race.

The atmospheres between indoor and outdoor track can be completely different when talking about meet aspects. A meet out at JDL would have a different feel than an invitational meet in outdoor. The conditions could even differ from meet to meet in the same facility. Even the team dynamic can vary; each individual athlete brings their own personality or color to the team, becoming a mix of different colors blending together to make one big picture. Talking to one of the athletes, I asked them about their opinion of indoor track and what makes it different from outdoor track.

“The difference between indoor and outdoor track is the fact that indoor track has different events,” says junior Rae McBride, “and the practices are really cold. Outdoor track has all the events you would hear of on T.V. and the practices are hot. I think both sports have a family atmosphere; there really isn’t much of a difference. I really enjoy indoor track the only part that isn’t as enjoyable is running in the cold, but everything else is really fun!”

Don’t let the name indoor fool you though; the indoor track and field team trains outdoors in almost any weather, with the exception of snow, thunderstorms, and extremely heavy rain. However in moderate rain, the team will warm-up inside, and the middle distance and distance people will run outside. Nonetheless, the sport has a close community and can be a lot of fun, even with the cold weather.

Though there are not a lot of meets throughout the winter season, the team had their first Polar Bear meet of the season on December 6 at Apex High School.


[1] – This information was found on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) website.

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