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baton passing

Relay Switch Baton Passing

Is there a preference on how to pass the baton blindly in a 4 x 100m relay?  At the International level, Canada, USA & Jamaica all use the push pass.  France, however, uses the up-sweep pass.

Once upon a time, France held the WR in the 4x100m Relay before the Americans dominated the event.  That is until Jamaica came along.

The USA 1968 relay squad of Vincent Matthews, Ron Freeman, Larry James, and Lee Evans used a blind up-sweep pass for the 4×400 meters!  You don’t see that anymore.  Watch the first 3 minutes of this video on YouTube.

The two main criteria for deciding which technique to use are (1) successful legal exchange (Duh!) and (2) maximizing the free distance.

Here’s a good tutorial on the 4x100m relay push pass and calculating 4x100m potential based on your four 100 meter sprinters’ season-best.

I talked about visual exchanges for the 4×200 and 4x400m in prior articles, as well as calculating splits for the 4×400 (and indoor 4x200m).

Up sweep, Down-sweep or Push Pass?

Here’s a quick review of the 3 common exchanges:

  1. Up-sweep – The incoming runner passes the baton up into the outgoing runner’s hand
  2. Down sweep – Receiving arm extended, but hand level is just above hip height.  Hand is almost like a V, and the baton is ready for landing between the thumb and first finger.
  3. Push Pass – the arm is extended out parallel to the ground and the hand is open with the thumb pointing down.


Here are 2 good examples of hand and arm position of the push pass:

Stay on your side of the Lane

Here are a few key pointers on baton and lane position.

  1. Lead off has the baton in the right hand, stays on the inside at the exchange
  2. 2nd runner takes the baton on the left hand, stays on the outside
  3. 3rd runner takes the baton on the right hand.  This exchange is crucial as the outgoing runner is on the inside, and the 2nd runner is on the outside and fatiguing!  With more distance to cover, you only have one chance to get it right.  Being a right-handed 3rd “leg”, this is why Usain Bolt prefers the 3rd leg
  4. Anchor takes the baton on the left hand and stays on the outside when receiving.  We’ve seen Carl Lewis switch hands after receiving the baton.   While this is totally unnecessary, in all fairness he has never dropped a baton.

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