Relay Baton Pass: Switch Passing
Is there a preference on how to relay baton pass blindly in a 4 x 100m relay?
At the International level, Canada, the 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.
In prior articles, I talked about visual exchanges for the 4×200 and 4x400m and calculated splits for the 4×400 (and indoor 4x200m).
Relay Baton Pass: Upsweep, Downsweep, or Push Pass?
Here’s a quick review of the 3 common exchanges:
- Up-sweep – The incoming runner passes the baton up into the outgoing runner’s hand
- Down sweep – Receiving arm extended, but hand level is just above hip height. The hand is almost like a V, and the baton is ready for landing between the thumb and first finger.
- Push Pass – the arm is extended parallel to the ground, and the hand is open with the thumb pointing down.
Here are 2 good examples of hand and arm positions of the push pass:
Stay on your side of the Lane
Here are a few essential pointers on baton passing and lane position.
- Leadoff has the baton in the right hand and stays on the inside at the exchange
- 2nd runner takes the baton on the left hand and stays on the outside
- 3rd runner takes the baton in their 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
- 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 unnecessary, in all fairness, he has never dropped a baton.
Why are the split times for the 4×100 meter relay typically faster than an individual who runs the 100-meter sprint on their own?
Because they start out quickly. With the exception of the first runner, each racer begins with a handoff that happens at the same speed as the previous runner’s finish. As a result, they start the race close to their top speed and maintain it throughout, as opposed to needing to accelerate from zero and reach top speed just halfway through.
Since the handoff is a challenging process needing highly exact timing (they are running over 25 mph, and the receiving runner isn’t even looking at it), there are additional obstacles. Since they need to pick up speed before they reach the handoff point, they must sprint more than 100 meters—more like 110.
Therefore, it is difficult to determine the exact pace you would anticipate. But it is unquestionably quicker than starting from scratch at 0.
Lee, J. (2010, January 22). 4×100 Relay Baton Passing – Upsweep, Downsweep or Push Pass? SpeedEndurance.Com. https://speedendurance.com/2010/01/22/4×100-relay-baton-passing-upsweep-down-sweep-or-push-pass/
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