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The post on the CIS indoor 4×200 meter relay showed some interesting analysis on how to properly exchange batons for a relay. April is around the corner, and that means Relay season. Penn, Drake, Texas… you name it!
I prefer to use a visual exchange for both 4×200 and 4x400m relay. The 1968 USA 4x400m team used blind passes! Scary!
In Youth 4×100 meter relays, I find it’s easier to keep consistent with the “give with the right, receive from the left” even if it means changing hands. I rarely see the baton fumble once they have the stick in hand. Their biggest problem is the incoming runner always runs into the outgoing runner, who is usually standing still.
I’ll focus on tips and cues for the 4x200m and 4x400m visual exchange but some of the concepts apply to the 4x100m as well.
Perhaps the USATF can print this article and use it for their next relay camp. And it won’t cost them a dime.
Visual Exchange Relay Tips
1) Pass with Right, Receive with Left. Pass with your right hand, and receive with the left. Incoming runner gets the inside part of the lane, outgoing runner gets the outside. (This is opposite of a 4x100m 2nd exchange where you only get one chance to pass the baton, with the incoming on the outside, he has to run further)
2) Change Hands Immediately. Once you get the baton, you change hands immediately. You’ll notice Carl Lewis do this when anchoring a 4x100m relay when it doesn’t matter. I guess Carl is more comfortable using his right hand. (please, no jokes here)
3) Share the Stick. Incoming runner gets the lower half, the outgoing runner gets the upper half.
4) YELL first, THEN reach. Do not give the verbal command of “STICK” or “UP” and reach at the same instant. SHOUT the command, keep running, and wait for the outgoing runner’s arm to extend, then reach and place the baton in the open hand.
5) Hold the Stick High at face level (see photo)
6) Outgoing Runner Grabs the Baton. When you feel the baton, grasp firmly, THEN use your arms to run. You can see in slow-mo replays how Tyson Gay didn’t have a firm grasp on the baton and his arm started to move forward before the stick was secure.
7) Don’t Let Go. Yet. Incoming runner does not let go until baton is firm in other hand.
8) Face the inside. For the 2nd and 3rd exchanges, when lining up on the track, ALWAYS face inside the track.
9) Incoming Runner Must “Attack the Zone”. Do not slow down or even relax until the baton is passed. Keep good running form.
10) Stay in your Lane. After the exchange, stay in your lane. Do not jump out to the left or right as there are runners behind you. Always look back before leaving the track preferably to the infield.
11) Hammer time. I prefer to grasp the baton firmly like a hammer. That may lead to tightness, but it’s better than having it knocked out of your hand which I’ve seen from experience. Some runners, like Michael Johnson or Jeremy Wariner holds the baton like a pencil which I’m not a fan of (see photo)
12) You be the Judge. Don’t take off too soon or too fast. Outgoing runner must judge the speed AND fatigue of the incoming runner. 75% speed is safe enough.
If you have any more tips and cues, please post your comments below.