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Preprint / Version 2

Sex Differences in Track and Field Elite Youth


  • Mira A. Atkinson Marquette University
  • Jessica J. James Marquette University
  • Meagan E. Quinn Marquette University
  • Jonathon W. Senefeld University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Sandra K. Hunter Marquette University



adolescence, aerobic power, athletics, gender, maturation, puberty


PURPOSE: To understand athletic performance before and after puberty, this study determined: 1) the age at which the sex difference increases among elite youth track and field athletes for running and jumping events; and 2) whether there is a sex difference in performance prior to puberty among elite youth athletes. METHODS: Track and field records of elite USA male and female youth (7-18 years) across three years (2019, 2021, and 2022) were collected from an online database ( The top 50 performances were recorded for 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m track running, long jump, and high jump. RESULTS: Males ran faster than females at every age in the 100, 200, 400 and 800 m (P<0.001).When combining all running events, the sex difference (%) was 4.0±1.7% between 7-12 years and increased to 6.3±1.1% at 13 years, and 12.6±1.8% at 18 years (P<0.001). Similarly, males jumped higher and further than females at every age (P<0.001). For long jump, the sex difference was 6.8±2.8% between 7-12 years, increasing to 8.5±1.7% at 13 years, and 22.7±1.4% at 18 years (P<0.001). For high jump, the sex difference was 5.3±5.2% between 7-12 years, increasing to 12.4±2.9% at 15 years, and 18.4±2.04% at 18 years (P<0.001). CONCLUSION: Prior to puberty in elite youth track and field athletes, there is a consistent sex difference of about 5%, such that males run faster and jump higher and further than females. The magnitude of the sex difference in performance was event dependent and increased significantly from 13 years for running and long jump and 15 years for high jump.


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2023-08-31 — Updated on 2024-02-27