On July 7, 2009 -NFHS – the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)announced a change to rule 5-13-2b – effectively changing the rule language from “deliberately knocks down an hurdle by hand or foot” to simply “knocks down any hurdle by hand”. My understanding is that this change was made, in part, because it’s difficult to gauge the intent of the hurdler & because the hurdler gains no advantage by hitting a hurdle vs. hurdling it cleanly.
The committee changed Rule 5-13-2b language from “deliberately knocks down any hurdle by hand or foot” to simply “knocks down any hurdle by hand.” Although the words “deliberately” and “foot” have been removed from the rule, competitors must attempt to clear each hurdle.
“The committee decided to take out the issue of determining whether an athlete knocks the hurdle down deliberately or by mistake,” said Becky Oakes, NFHS assistant director and committee liaison. “If the hurdler knocks down one after another after another, then the official can determine that the competitor is not attempting to clear the hurdle. It isn’t to a hurdler’s advantage to hit and deliberately knock down hurdles.”
All rules that apply to other lane races (starting and finishing in your lane, not running on inside lane line on a curve) apply to the hurdles. A few other specific rules also apply to hurdle events. Basically, the hurdler must attempt to clear each hurdle (Rule 5-13-2a). If a portion of the leg goes around the hurdle without attaining the height of the hurdle, it is a violation (5-13-2c).
This year there has been a change in the rule on clearing the hurdle. In the past, Rule 5-13-2b stated it was a violation if the hurdler ―deliberately knocks down any hurdle by hand or foot.‖ The rule now states ―Knocks down the hurdle by hand.
If the hurdler knocks down a hurdle by hand, it is an obvious violation since he or she did not make any attempt to clear the hurdle. Knocking down the hurdle with the foot or leg happens all the time. Usually this is a simple technical change in the hurdling technique and not a violation of the rule requiring the hurdler to attempt to clear each hurdle. This rule will have the most effect in the short hurdle races. In the 300-meter hurdles, seldom does a competitor fail to attempt to clear a hurdle. The hurdler may run around a hurdle or push it over by hand, but that is covered in other parts of the rule. Assume a hurdler in the 110-meter hurdles has knocked down two hurdles during the race.Is that going to be a violation? Not at all. This is fairly normal. What if that hurdler knocked over every hurdle? Now the umpire (or referee) has to observe if the hurdler made an attempt to clear each hurdle? This is critical to determining if there was a violation of 5-13-2a. If the hurdler knocked over most of the hurdles with his thigh, then there is probably reason to believe he attempted to clear the hurdle. If every hurdle was knocked over with the foot and con-tact was made with the ball of the foot, the umpire could decide the hurdler did not make an attempt to clear the hurdle and report his/her observations to the referee. If the referee deter-mines the competitor violated Rule 5-13-2a, the penalty is disqualification.
However, keep in mind that if a hurdler’s steps get off, he or she could contact a hurdle with the ball of the foot in a legitimate attempt to clear the hurdle. In order to rule that the hurdler did not attempt to clear the hurdle, that hurdler must have knocked down many of the hurdles in the same manner. An umpire assigned to watch the entire race from off the track where all ten hurdles and not just one or two can be observed, is in the best position to judge an attempt or lack thereof to clear the hurdles.
A competitor is running the finals of the 110 hurdles. During the race, the competitor knocks over hurdles two, five and six with the foot of the lead leg. An umpire assigned to observe these hurdles raises a yellow flag and records the incident citing Rule 5-13-1. The report is provided to the meet referee. After review, the referee disqualifies the competitor. RULING: Incorrect procedure. Results stand. COMMENT: The knocking down of a hurdle by a foot is not a disqualification. If the hurdler were to knock over the hurdle by his hand or is clearly not attempting to clear the hurdles, then the competitor shall be disqualified.
As a high school hurdle coach – you’d think I’d have a pretty good handle on the rules by now. And yet when I read (and re-read) the releases from the NFHS as well as the USATF – I’m left confused as to when a hurdler can be DQ’d for hitting multiple hurdles with their lead leg/foot. On one hand, it appears that the rule change removes “deliberately knocks down any hurdle by…foot” – yet the hurdlers must “attempt to clear each hurdle”. And yet, if a hurdler hits multiple (how many that would constitute a DQ – they don’t say) – the official can decide that he/she didn’t make an effort to clear the hurdle and still DQ them anyways? Even if hitting a hurdler doesn’t gain any advantage in doing so? Sure sounds like the official is again making a determination of intent – so why make the rule change?
Admittedly, I may be misinterpreting the application of the rule change – but how does an official, coach or fan, recognize when a hurdler should be DQ’d for this violation?