By the Numbers: How Competitive is Pennsylvania in Track and Field?

How competitive is Pennsylvania in track and field relative to the other 49 states in America? Well, the executive summary version would simply read “Very Competitive!”

Unlike numerous other sports supported by the PIAA, track and field *only* has 2 classifications, AA and AAA. Cross Country (XC) moved to 3 classifications a few years back, and while some have argued for 3 classifications in track and field the PIAA has not yet made that move. I personally support keeping just 2 classifications. Track and Field is much more of an individual sport than XC and individual talent can come from anywhere. I do recognize the challenge of qualifying as a relay team from a small school in class AA or as one of the smaller class AAA schools. That said, I would prefer not to “water down” the championships for all other events by adding a 3rd classification.

How does the PIAA manage classifications by sport?

Comparative to other states, Pennsylvania is arguably the 2nd most competitive state for track and field in the country. Using data collected by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), the 12 states on the list below have the highest participation numbers amongst high schoolers in outdoor track and field. When dividing participation numbers by the number of classifications each state has you can come up with a rough estimate for the number of competitors in each classification.

Using the method above, California is by far the most competitive state for track and field. They have multiple qualifying rounds to get to their “state championship” meet, but at that meet size of your school does not matter. It is truly the best of the best, battling it out for state titles. New Jersey has 4 classifications for their “state championships,” but they have an end of year “Meet of Champions” that brings the top performers from each classification to compete against each other. Texas has the most overall participants in track and field, but with 7 classifications have the 4th most participants per classification for boys and the 6th most participants per classification for girls.

So, while you watch the PIAA State Track and Field Championships this weekend, please recognize how special this state championship event is. The PIAA State Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University is a truly special experience. If you have never been to the meet in person I would highly recommend it. If you can’t join in person, then watch or record the event on PCNTV.

Good luck to the “best of the best” track and field athletes in PA as they compete this weekend. Enjoy the experience and reflect on how special it is to get to compete at this meet. It is a truly outstanding accomplishment!

Plan on attending? Buy your tickets here.