Indoor versus Outdoor Track and Field

Difference between Indoor and Outdoor Track


Collegiate Track and Field has two seasons, the Indoor Season and the Outdoor Season. Outside of the obvious, what differentiates the two seasons?

The biggest difference is the size of the tracks that are competed on and the effects that size has on events. An indoor track is 200 meters inside (There are some exceptions with certain indoor fields being larger or oversized like the University of Washington) The outdoor track is twice as long with a 400m loop.

With the change in the distance of the track some events are adjusted. The sprint events, in order to avoid any turns, are shorter for indoor track. They race the 60 meters versus the 100 meters (both flat and hurdles).

Outdoor Track and fiel

Indoor also has a medley relay where there are racers that run the 1200 m, 400 m, 800 m and the mile. For indoor competition the 3 kilometer is run flat whereas for outdoor that event adds a steeple chase to it.

There are also major differences in the throwing events for the indoor versus outdoor seasons. Indoor has the shot put and the weight throw. But it does not host the javelin, hammer and discus like it’s outdoor counterpart does.

SHot Put

Another major difference is the way in which an athlete can qualify for the Indoor versus Outdoor NCAA Championships. To qualify for Indoor Nationals there is a running list throughout the season of the best results posted (whether it is fastest time for running events or greater distance for field events). The top 16 with the best results are invited to NCAA’s Indoor Championship. This lends the Indoor season to be more competitive and with the best athletes always invited.

For Outdoor Championships there is added a First Round of the NCAA Tournament or the Regional Round. In the Regional Round teams from the East and the West compete. The Top 48 from each Regional are invited to the Regional event. From the Regional 12 will move on to NCAA’s which is two weeks later.

The Outdoor Championships garners more hype, probably because it most closely mirrors the Olympics and hosts more events. But the Indoor Championships is the only place the mile is run, which as we’ve discussed before is one of the premier running events.


Team scoring for Track and Field Championships is based on placement in an event. First place is worth 10 points, Second is 8 points, 3rd is worth 7 points and so forth until the top 8 have scored. Most teams that win NCAA Championship are top heavy. Meaning a handful of really talented athletes can win the meet for the University. Rarely do teams bring large teams or have a lot of depth. An athlete is allowed to compete in 4 events including relays.

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