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Coaching Spring10:Coaching Spring 09 6/14/10 12:55 AM Page 27

The 4x100 Meter Relay

By Clayton Davis, Shelby High School Head Track Coach, Shelby, Montana

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ver the years, I’ve had reasonable success with our 4x100 meter relays here at Shelby High School. We’re a small Class B high school of 160 students and practice on a cinder track. Because of our facility and numbers, we have had to become fairly good technicians. We’ve also had to become creative at times. This article focuses on several aspects of coaching the sprint relay that I feel are important to having success in this event. The first thing I look at is participants. I use a democratic system where anyone interested in running the short relay must run the 100 meter dash to qualify for the team. I keep a precise depth chart with both the boys’ and girls’ times. Two or three times again during the season they must qualify, especially if they’re not normally running the 100. What I’ve found is that jumpers and hurdlers oftentimes are just as fast as true sprinters. Don’t overlook those field event athletes.

I’ve always believed it’s easier to run when in front rather than from behind. It gives the other runners a lot of confidence when they see the lead their team has. They may become important contributors to your relay. I find that hurdlers and jumpers do a great job on the first leg. They get out of the blocks quickly, are explosive, and run that first corner well. I use a different approach than most coaches on the second leg. Our best relay teams over the years have had the fastest runner on the back stretch. Give that runner a long, straight line and they can really open it up. The other advantage is that this gives your team the lead and then you can simply ask the last two legs to keep it. I’ve always believed it’s easier to run when in front rather than from behind. It gives the other runners a lot of confidence when they see the lead their team has. The most powerful runner should be third, especially someone who runs a good 200 meters. They need to control that gravitational pull and stay on the inside of their lane. A weaker runner will tend to be pulled out and away from the inside of their lane. The last runner should be a strong finisher, not one who tires quickly or fades the last 20 meters or so. Remind them to run through the tape and not to the tape. Unlike some other programs, I coach my relays to use the entire acceleration zone. I want that exchange to be at top speed with as little time lost as possible. Speed wins relays, yes, but smooth and efficient exchanges are vital to success. An average sprint relay team with excellent exchanges can be much better than average. One thing that still puzzles me after 30 years of coaching is 400 meter relay teams from schools with all-weather tracks that struggle with exchanges. If you’re fortunate enough to have an all-weather surface, you should have the opportunity to really finetune those handoffs.

Photo: Victah, www.photorun.NET

Coaching Athletics Quarterly - Spring 2010

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