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Baton Passing 101

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  • Baton Passing 101

    Now that we have had a few days to lick our wounds and bemoan the recurring, regrettable state of US relay teams baton passing skills, I hope you all will humor and old T&F luddite dinosauer with a moment to pontificate:
    Stuff happens in the relays, especially the 4 x 1. IMO, it would not happen so often if they would simply revert to the blind, upsweep pass into the inverted V of the extended right hand of the outgoing runner. It worked very well sixty years ago and will work today. KISS.
    There are opposing schools of thought on which hand to carry and pass with and whether to change hands with the baton. IMO, either is acceptable depending on the preference of the individual runners and probably offsets the theoretical advantage of one method. But, they must know which method they are using on each exchange.
    Ideally, lead off would start and, to minimize chance of dropped baton or lost momentum, carry in left hand and pass into right hand of 2nd leg, who has positioned him/herself on the inside of the lane a pre-determined distance outside the rear of the passing zone that enables outgoing to turn and start running when incoming hits a pre-determined mark and match the speed of incoming as they hit the zone, at which time, and not before, he/she extends right hand back and holds arm/hand as still as possible, to receive upsweep pass from left hand of incoming. Out going is already facing and running down track without turning to receive baton. Perfectly timed, this all happens in one stride with extended arm, incoming does not "run up" on outgoing and they have 20 meters to complete the exchange if there is a bobble.
    I don't, in truth, ascribe to the comcept of incoming "running up" on outgoing. Incoming is not supposed to slow down to facilitate the pass. It is outgoing's job to get up to speed but not outrun incoming if incoming does not slow down for pass. Outgoing stays to inside of lane so there is room for incoming to run up beside him/her inside the lane if outgoing does not perfectly match incoming speed. And, they are passing near hand to near hand.
    I have never understood the logic of outgoing twisting body to the left and reaching back with an elevated left hand to take the baton from the (usually) right hand of incoming who is in driving sprint phase with arms relatively low. I believe this contribued to Muna's misfortune. ( Also, did anyone else notice that, because Bolt is so tall, average size incoming have trouble reaching his elevated hand?)
    Second leg, ideally, switches baton to left hand on first stride after receiving it and repeats the process at second handoff to third leg, who repeats it to anchor. There is no need for anchor to switch hands.
    As someone said, this is not rocket science. It just takes practice and execution.
    At risk of being immodest and forfeiting anonymity, I offer as credentials that I ran on a national champion 440 relay team back in the Cretaceous Period and that is the way we did it, even though we only had one of the fastest guys in the country (Admittedly, not me) but, dang, we were slick with that stick. :!: .
    At least that is the way I remember it. Of course, my kids say I also remember walking to school uphill both ways.

  • #2
    Another excellent post! I agree that the underhand pass is the way to go. I have a difficult time understanding why anyone would try to make it more complicated than it needs to be.

    Comment


    • #3
      While I have no issue with the accuracy of the post, the one thing you can't teach or practice is how to deal with the adrenaline rush that occurs when a gold medal (possibly a WR) is riding on the outcome of that baton change. When you are running from a position of behind, that doesn't help either.

      These are the intangibles that every runner has to deal with. And it makes no difference if you are a first time rookie or a 3-time olympic participant.

      Comment


      • #4
        lone wolf, good post/observation....I do believe the main issue is practice, lack there of. I mean really, we're talking about the worlds/Olympics, trying to put together teams, who don't work together on the regular.

        I mean the athletes know how to execute this, they have done it 100's of times in their career, some since youth track.

        I really truly believe it's a lack of practice, also working in runners who aren't scheduled to run in the finals, run your #1 team in rounds and finals, this will allow for THEM to get the lion share of work in. If everyone on the #1 relay is healthy, why wouldn't and shouldn't they run and get the work?
        on the road

        Comment


        • #5
          I have a problem with the second and third legs switching hands with the baton. It's bound to slow you a little and it increases the chances of a dropped baton. Furthermore, your method has the first leg running on the outside of the lane instead of the inside of the lane, which increases the distance run.

          One of the most common things I see go wrong is the incoming runner missing the target on the initial try. That's what happened with Anderson and Lee on Saturday. As a matter of fact Anderson missed the target on her first two tries, and after that Lee started reaching for the baton. The whole time Anderson was closing the gap on Lee until at the end, she was almost beside her and having to slow down. I think what Anderson should have done after she missed the target the first time is grab Lee's wrist with her right hand to steady the target. Some may think this is crazy but I've seen quite a few people do this successfully over the years after missing the target on the first one or two attempts.

          Often times, the outgoing runner can sense that something is wrong because they can feel the baton brush their hand or arm, and it's human nature for the outgoing runner to start reaching for the baton when they can feel the incoming runner is having problems hitting the target. Ideally, the outgoing runner should resist the impulse to start reaching for the baton and keep the target as steady as possible, but that a lot easier said that done when the adrenaline is pumping and the fans are cheering. I've seen a few runners who can remain calm under those circumstances, but it seems that most can't resist the urge to start reaching for the baton, and once they start doing that, it makes it that much more difficult for the incoming runner to find the target.

          There's nothing you can do in practice to recreate a real race atmosphere. In practice the incoming runner is bound to be more accurate and that outgoing runner is bound to be steadier, but if you also practiced this "grab-the-wrist" technique, you'll be prepared for those championship race situations when you fail to connect on your first one or two tries.

          Comment


          • #6
            Kudos!!!!

            Anything to add is that Asafa not only has to set his marker with the zone in sight but also in consideration of Bolt's incredible closing speed. Though unorthodox I would have recommended that Asafa advances a further 10m towards the thrird leg to allow him reach a faster speed by the time Usain gets to him. Its just too hard to try and judge Bolt's amazing momentun when he gets in stride and hence the constant buuckling when he has to change over to asafa. Or just use Asafa on back stretch and allow the Bolt to anchor and the same for Tyson Gay.

            But I don't want to take away from this excellent expose on relay dynamics, Job well done!!!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Paul Henry
              Though unorthodox I would have recommended that Asafa advances a further 10m towards the thrird leg to allow him reach a faster speed by the time Usain gets to him.
              That's illegal. Asafa just needs to move his go-mark further back so that Bolt won't reach him so early in the zone.

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with what has been said here. The most frustrating thing for me, adrenaline aside, has been that a terribly-executed legal handoff is better than an illegal one or none at all. With the recent track record, at this point it is better to have the receiver come to a full stop, turn around, and grab the baton, then go on to not qualify, than to have the kind of results we just witnessed again last week. It seems to be an all-or-nothing approach.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by asindc
                  I agree with what has been said here. The most frustrating thing for me, adrenaline aside, has been that a terribly-executed legal handoff is better than an illegal one or none at all. With the recent track record, at this point it is better to have the receiver come to a full stop, turn around, and grab the baton, then go on to not qualify, than to have the kind of results we just witnessed again last week. It seems to be an all-or-nothing approach.
                  Agreed, you gotta play it safe in the round, to get to the finals. Just simply execute, again these athletes have been doing handoffs for years.
                  on the road

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jazzcyclist
                    I have a problem with the second and third legs switching hands with the baton. It's bound to slow you a little and it increases the chances of a dropped baton. Furthermore, your method has the first leg running on the outside of the lane instead of the inside of the lane, which increases the distance run..
                    Valid points, jazz, but I think I made the concession that I do not believe a lot is lost if a runner is feels he/she cannot carry in left hand. A right to right, while I do not consider it the most efficient, is not fatal. It is the right to left that concerns me.
                    In my experience, if the right to left hand shift is made on the first stride after receiving is practiced, it becomes automatic, there is no loss of initial momentum and minimal risk of dropping. I certainly do not condone hand change after leaving the passing zone.
                    And, runners do not have to run the entire leg on the outside of the lane, just veer right for the handoff. Incoming has to go someplace if overtaking outgoing and better than stepping on his/her heels or putting on the brakes..

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Speedfirst
                      Agreed, you gotta play it safe in the round, to get to the finals. Just simply execute, again these athletes have been doing handoffs for years.
                      The problem is, 'playing it safe' can also be disastrous. Come in too slowly and you never connect. Go out too slowly and you'll get run over. Turn and make a visual pass and you get the Muna Lee scenario where your body is contorted at high speed. The ONLY solution is to practice and compete until it's second nature. For a HS team to mess up in the early season is fine. In the championship season, 'unforgivable'. The USA team goes into every global champs as an 'early season' team.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        baton passing 101

                        Some good points. however, you want your leadoff to run to the inside of the lane with the baton in their right hand. The 2nd leg runner will run to the outside of their lane a little to receive the baton in the left hand. Do not switch hands ever. Too much risks. The reason the 2nd and anchor legs run to the outside alittle gives the leadoff and 3rd legs a little room in case the first pass is missed and they won't trip over each other aka Anderson and Muna. Leadoff right hand /inside lane . 2nd left hand / outer part of lane. 3rd right hand / inside of lane. Anchor left hand/ outer part of lane. Never teach switching baton. Too many risks.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Marlow
                          Originally posted by Speedfirst
                          Agreed, you gotta play it safe in the round, to get to the finals. Just simply execute, again these athletes have been doing handoffs for years.
                          The problem is, 'playing it safe' can also be disastrous. Come in too slowly and you never connect. Go out too slowly and you'll get run over. Turn and make a visual pass and you get the Muna Lee scenario where your body is contorted at high speed. The ONLY solution is to practice and compete until it's second nature. For a HS team to mess up in the early season is fine. In the championship season, 'unforgivable'. The USA team goes into every global champs as an 'early season' team.
                          Because the issue is a lack of practice, reason IMO you play it safe. By playing safe, I mean still have speed, but come in under control at the exchange. The US would've advanced easily, simply executing more cautiously on the exchange where the mishap took place.
                          on the road

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Speedfirst
                            Because the issue is a lack of practice, reason IMO you play it safe. By playing safe, I mean still have speed, but come in under control at the exchange. The US would've advanced easily, simply executing more cautiously on the exchange where the mishap took place.
                            That would necessarily mean practicing and competing at slower speeds so we can execute the 'safe pass'. I don't see that as helpful.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Marlow
                              Originally posted by Speedfirst
                              Because the issue is a lack of practice, reason IMO you play it safe. By playing safe, I mean still have speed, but come in under control at the exchange. The US would've advanced easily, simply executing more cautiously on the exchange where the mishap took place.
                              That would necessarily mean practicing and competing at slower speeds so we can execute the 'safe pass'. I don't see that as helpful.
                              Here is where it's helpful, getting the stick around and qualifying. You still practice full speed for the finals. But also when you do this, you practice and run your #1 team in the round and finals. This gives THEM more reps.

                              Obviously the inherent risk in a relay, is a botched exchange.
                              on the road

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