College Track and Field Scholarships & Recruiting Information

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the world of scholarships and recruiting in track and field. In addition to learning about the nature of scholarships in the sport, we also learn some helpful tips for the recruiting process.

Track and Field

Track and field is one of the more diverse and electrifying sports one can watch today. Whether it is Usain Bolt blowing away the competition in the 100-meter dash, or more obscure athletes excelling in a variety of sports in the decathlon, track and field seems to have something for everybody.

Usain Bolt is famous for track and field
Usain Bolt

For high school students who excel in one of the sport's events, track and field may provide a source of funding for their college education as well. This lesson will explore how scholarships are given in track and field and discuss some important points to aid student-athletes through the recruiting process.


Track and field is a unique sport when it comes to scholarships, particularly because it must share scholarships with another sport: cross country. Cross country generally involves a few events running longer distances (roughly 5 or 10 kilometers in length) over hills or through forests and usually takes place in the fall, while track and field is a spring sport.

Track and field athletes thus face competition for scholarships not just from other track and field athletes, but from cross country runners as well. That said, most scholarships end up going to track and field athletes, which has larger teams and is a higher profile sport than cross country.

For example, the average NCAA Division I men's track and field team has 34 members, while the average cross country team in the same division has only 14 runners.

Even with this welcome information, it remains highly unlikely that track and field competitors will be able to gain a full scholarship. This is because of both the number of scholarships available to athletes and also that track and field is an equivalency sport according to the NCAA.

Equivalency sports are sports where scholarships can be split between more than one player. This is done in sports that may be low revenue. It also allows coaches to concentrate scholarship money wherever they feel it is best used and help them to spread it out to as many players as possible.

This makes even more sense when you consider the amount of scholarships available to teams and the average team size (around 30), with smaller schools often fielding under 30, and larger, Division I schools fielding more.


So, if you want to guarantee yourself a scholarships--and as big of a scholarship as possible--what should you do? Here are a few important things for the recruiting process.

Know Your Schools

Do some research on the schools where you want to compete. There are so many different events in track and field, make sure you try to get a scholarship at schools that are not already set at your event. For example, if your chosen event is the 200-meter dash, but the school you like best already has three runners that run at the Olympic level, you may want to think about applying elsewhere.

See if you can find out if athletes in your event routinely receive scholarships. Different schools prize different events; if your event is the decathlon but your school of choice rarely gives scholarships to decathletes, you may want to reconsider applying there.

Check Performances

You might be a great runner or hurdler, but are you good enough to compete at the next level? With only roughly 5-7% of high school athletes competing at the collegiate level and scholarships somewhat scarce, you will need to make sure you are competing on at least the average collegiate level if you want to earn a scholarship.

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