What times are required to run college cross country? The answer to that question depends on your running experience and what colleges you are targeting. Evaluating whether you have enough talent to run in college depends on the school, the coach, and the team. For example, a 10:00 two-miler would have a very difficult time making an elite Division 1 team. However, he would probably be welcomed onto most NCAA Division II teams.
It’s important to realize that coaches have good reasons to keep their teams relatively small. For example, regulations such as Title IX force coaches to limit how many male athletes they can carry on a team. However, Title IX does help female athletes by ensuring that athletic programs don’t unequally provide athletic opportunities to males. As a result, it is comparatively easier for female runners to get onto NCAA cross-country and track teams than it is for males.
What Kind of Times Do Coaches Look For?
From my experience, it seems that most Division I coaches primarily focus on a runners track times when deciding whether or to allow him or her to walk on. College coaches rely on track times because, unlike cross country, everybody runs the same course. Although far from a set rule, it seems that most coaches allow runners to try out for teams as long as they can run a 4:40 mile and/or a 9:50 two mile.
Of course, having a great cross-country resume can help convince a coach to give you chance. If you have placed high at the state meet, or have a solid 5k time (probably has to be at least under 17:00) it can make up for poor track times. For girls, the general rule for Division 1 programs are: 800m: 2:25, mile: 5:30, 2 mile: 11:40, and 5K: 19:30 Again, there are no set guidelines, and there might be many people that disagree with me that these are the appropriate times, so you owe it to yourself to contact coaches personally and ask them what their standards are.
I want to emphasize that these times do not apply to colleges at the Division II, Division II, and NAIA levels. Coaches at college in these divisions allow runners with slower times to run on the team. Please see my page on contacting coaches to understand how to get the attention of coaches.
Keep in mind that these running times are not even close to being fast enough for a Division I athletic scholarship. Athletic scholarships for track and cross country runners are in short supply and only elite runners out of college can expect to receive any money during their freshman year. Don’t despair though – college coaches often reward runners with athletic scholarships in their sophomore, junior, and senior years. Take a look at my page on college athletic scholarships for information about how fast runners can use running to pay for college.
Lower Division Schools
As I stated before, the aforementioned time standards do not apply to Division II, III and NAIA schools. Many colleges in these divisions accept runners with times far above 4:40 and 9:50, or Therefore, if you really want to run in college, but don’t have great times, don’t limit yourself only to Division I colleges in your search.
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