I didn’t know what I was doing as a high school athlete. I didn’t fuel my body properly, rarely warmed up, and didn’t practise with adequate intensity. Regardless of these facts, I was a consistent member of the 4200 and 4400 metre relay teams, as well as the hurdle event, during my junior and senior years of high school.
4×200 Relay Olympics Track And Field:
I wasn’t much better as a young coach, but I was fortunate enough to have some really amazing mentors who helped me grow and develop into a leader. Since then, I’ve had some success instructing children in the art of jumping hurdles, formulated a strategy for competing in the 300-meter hurdles, and refined my approach to sprinting with the help of Tony Holler’s Feed the Cats theory for events ranging from the 60 to the 400 metres.
Though I’ve developed greatly throughout the course of my career, there was always that one thing I couldn’t figure out: how to efficiently move the stick around the track during a 4×200 metre relay.
As opposed to the 4100, the 4200 is unique. This may seem like such an obvious point that it’s almost disrespectful, but like many other coaches, I’ve made the mistake of treating these two exchanges as though they were the same: a blind pass from the incoming to the outgoing runner followed by a push pass. I reasoned that if the “go-mark” for the departing runner was shortened by the same amount it was for the 4100, the stick would be able to make it around the track without incident. But this caused a slew of issues that, I wager, nearly every coach has dealt with:
- The departing runner is on his or her way out.
- The leaving runner is both punctual and premature in their departure.
- Runner on the receiving end of the relay seems unusually fatigued.
- The oncoming runner is doing great, but they’re so worried about not being able to catch their friend that they yell, “go slow!”
- The arriving runner is so exhausted from worrying about the exiting one that they hardly make any progress.
Also, the 4200 is not the same as the 4400. To be sure, you already know this. There is also a hybrid strategy where the departing runner takes off, then turns and looks back to accept the baton from the incoming runner, treating the 4200 exchange like a sped-up 4400 with an open exchange. Running sideways is slower than sprinting straight ahead, and looking back for the baton doesn’t improve acceleration, so while this is a safer choice than the blind exchange, it still leaves something to be desired.
Every coach would probably agree that speed is irrelevant. The relay times are ruined by a slow stick. It’s true that a sluggish baton exchange is safer than one in which the object being passed is bouncing around on the track, but the same is true of a lost baton. Remember that a sluggish baton is annoying, but a dropped baton or a zone violation is a death sentence.
Acquiring the Skirt Around Trade
The quick exchange is something I borrowed from other coaches, like many other great ideas have been. During my time as a coach at Monticello High School in Illinois a number of years ago, I witnessed something completely new at a competition. Champaign Centennial annihilated the competition in the sprint relay by executing a bizarre handoff in which the incoming runner sprinted past the exiting runner.
For the next two seasons, I watched those sprint relay teams every time I could. I was in awe of how smoothly the stick navigated the zone. There was never an argument between them. Centennial’s boys 4×200 relay team finished sixth at the 2015 IHSA State Meet with a time of 1:29.22. The initial step had been taken. Since then, I’ve felt the concept developing in my mind.
It was in 2021 that I was promoted to the position of Head Track & Field Coach at Kalamazoo Central High School. Our first spring workout was on April 5, and the MHSAA State Finals were exactly two months later due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, we had some good athletes on that team, but we weren’t exactly the best in the world. Even so, I thought we had sufficient depth to achieve at least a modicum of success in the sprint relays.