Are NCAA Division-I Women’s and Men’s Cross-Country Runners Competing in the Same Race? A Physiological Perspective

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Eric K. O’Neal, Savanna N. Knight, Hunter S. Waldman, Eric M. Scudamore, Veronika Pribyslavska, Lynnsey R. Bowling, John M. Carder

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Published: 26 July 2023 | Article Type : Research Article

Abstract

A recent petition to transition Women’s and Men’s Divisions National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)  Division-I cross-country (XC) championships to a common distance of 8-km has been denied. This decision  was made without access to published, quantitative assessments comparing the metabolic profiles of runners  at their current, respective race distances.This study examined the magnitude of metabolic discrepancies  between female (n=14) and male (n=17) runners at previous season personal best (PB) pace for conference championship race distances (female 5-km; 19.27 ± 0.89 min and male 8-km; 26.12 ± 1.23 min). Treadmill  grade was set at 1% while metabolic variables were collected via indirect calorimetry and averaged for  minutes 4 and 5 during a run at PB pace. Significant differences (p< 0.05) were found between female and  male runners for percentage of 60 s V̇ O2peak (96.8 ± 5.5% vs 88.6 ± 7.5%) and respiratory exchange ratio (RER)  (1.03 ± 0.06 vs 0.99 ± 0.04), respectively. Data were further analyzed within sex by comparing the fastest and  slowest half runners. Despite ~7% difference in PB, highest and lowest half performers did not differ from  each other for fractional utilization or RER at PB. It is not surprising that metabolic profiles differed between  sexes however, these marked differences suggest that Men’s and Women’s Division runners are competing  in physiologically distinct events. This evidence should be given consideration in decision making for future  NCAA XC championship race distance selection.

Keywords: Respiratory Exchange Ratio, VO2peak, Fractional Utilization, Gender, Sex, Title IX.

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Eric K. O’Neal, Savanna N. Knight, Hunter S. Waldman, Eric M. Scudamore, Veronika Pribyslavska, Lynnsey R. Bowling, John M. Carder. (2023-07-26). "Are NCAA Division-I Women’s and Men’s Cross-Country Runners Competing in the Same Race? A Physiological Perspective." *Volume 5*, 1, 15-22