THE ACCELERATION LADDERTM
Only in acceleration do we see stride-frequency and stride-length improve incrementally. We can improve the acceleration of an athlete by carefully choreographing the precise movements of this racing phase. The best means to address this neuro-physiological challenge is with a training concept called the ACCELERATION LADDERTM.
The ACCELERATION LADDERTM is a collection of 10 rungs attached by cords that identify the approximate spacing of each foot-placement throughout the acceleration phase. Sprinting with this training tool will allow for an exact programming of the neuromuscular system. The rungs (or “sticks”) used in this exercise improve the kinesthetic awareness of the athlete by allowing them to feel the proper foot placement as it occurs behind the athlete’s center of mass.
This adjustable tool offers two different settings: The most common setting for a young or developing athlete is a 40:10 ratio. The second rung or stick is positioned forty centimeters from the first. Each additional rung is placed at a point that is ten additional centimeters away. The spacing progresses from 40cm to 50cm, then 60cm, 70cm and so on.
The second setting is appropriate for a taller or more advanced sprinter. This setting is a 50:15 ratio which follows the same pattern as before. The second rung is positioned 50cm from the first. The third rung then is 65cm from number two, the next rung is 80cm away, and so on.
The exercise begins with the use of five to six rungs. The sprinter places his/her power-side foot (the foot which is placed forward in the starting blocks) just in front of the first rung. The shin should be pointed toward the finish line, the torso in-line with the angle of the shin, the knee should line up in front of the spike plate, and the arms should hang loose from the shoulders.
It is important to note that at no time should the athlete step on the rung sticks. Rather he/she should drive back into the face of these rungs as a method of determining exact foot placement. This drill begins with a falling start. Before balance is lost, the smart-side leg (the leg placed back in the blocks) will quickly recover while simultaneously extending at the hip on the power side to move the center-of-mass forward. The emphasis on horizontal motion is critical.
After recovery of the smart-side leg is complete, the hips will be positioned past the second rung. The second step requires the recovered leg to be driven back down into the track surface as was rehearsed in each of the preceding drills. The athlete should be able to feel or sense the second stick or rung just behind the spike plate as ground contact is made. With each stride, the performer should drive the legs back into the running surface resulting in a horizontal displacement. As competency increases, additional rungs can be added to the exercise.
Repeated rehearsal of this drill will automate the precise movements desired in the acceleration phase of a sprint race. Even though the actual stride-length of the performer may not exactly match the pattern rehearsed, the benefits of the incrementally increasing steps will translate positively to competition.
WHO INVENTED THE STARTING BLOCK?
You might think the starting blocks used today were created by a great scientist, or coach, or perhaps an athlete. Wrong! The first starting blocks were produced by a groundskeeper! In the days before the introduction of synthetic track surfaces, competition was contested on cinder or clay tracks. In order to produce the best start, athletes would dig two small holes in the track to accommodate the push-off necessary to overcome inertia. This technique worked well. It did however prove to be quite inconvenient for the man who was responsible for grooming the track surface. Imagine having to fill those holes after each race only to have the performers in the next round dig it up again.
The first starting blocks were not created to produce a better start. They were constructed to preserve the running surface. The starting blocks utilized today are not much different from the first models introduced decades ago. The science of optimizing the use of the blocks, however, has progressed tremendously. Next, we will explore the best means to maximize starting ability from both the crouched and standing start positions.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Though the “start” begins a race, we should not begin our training focusing on this racing segment. Starting skills require great amount of strength and power and neuro-muscular coordination. Once the athlete has begun to develop some of these capacities, then work in and around starting blocks is appropriate.
Before starting skills can be taught, we must first determine the power-side and the smart-side of the athlete. As infants, our neurological development takes on a distinct pattern. One side of the body becomes the primary mover, while the other works in support. As a baby eats, one hand brings food to the lips while the other holds the plate steady. We write with the smart hand and hold the paper steady with the power-side hand. We kick with our smart-side leg, while the power leg supports all of the body weight.
Generally, the hand you write with and which foot you kick with represents the smart-side of the body. The smart-side foot is placed behind the athlete in the starting position. The power-side will generate most of the force from the front position.
THE LEARNING PROGRESSION
Starting skills should be introduced with the upright position first, and evolve towards the crouched start. Repeated studies show that athletes who lack the strength, power, or technical skill needed for the crouched start will actually produce slower sprint times with starting blocks than without one!
In competition, athletes should be allowed to use only those starting skills which have been mastered. This may require starting blocks not being used initially.
CATEGORY ONE: FALLING STARTS
The common thread running through this category of drills is the body position assumed prior to the first movement. The athlete will allow gravity to pull him/her forward until the torso is at about 55-degrees with respect to the running surface. As this position is achieved, the athlete explosively begins to sprint and continues through a distance of at least 20-meters.
• The Upright Falling Start
The power-side foot is positioned just behind the starting line, body weight on his/her shoe’s spike plate, shin pointing forward so that the knee is directly over the foot. The smart-side shoe grips the surface with the spike plate and is positioned behind the body. For balance, the arms are in sync with the legs with the right-hand/left-foot and left-hand/right-foot working in tandem.
With pressure being applied through both the power-side and smart-side spike plates, the athlete should feel his/her hamstrings and gluteus muscles begin to fire as he/she allows the body to drift forward. Just before balance is lost, the athlete applies maximum forces off both feet and explosively accelerates forward. The skills learned in acceleration training are implemented here. The breath is held for the first few strides of this starting action. The desired application of forces is largely horizontal so hip extension on the power-side is critical.
Verbal Cues: “pressure on the spike plates,” “push from the hip.”
• The Squat Falling Start
Assuming the same position as in the last drill with the feet set and arms synchronized, the hips lower into a squat position. The power-side leg (front leg) should be bent at the knee in a 90-degree angle, and the forward fall executed as before. As the desired body position is reached, the athlete should explode into an acceleration pattern. If the athlete finds it difficult to explode forward from this “squat” position, they are unprepared to execute a start from staring blocks in a crouched stance until additional gains in strength and power are made.
Verbal Cues: “lower the hips,” “fully extend the power side.” • The 3-Point Start
Here, the ready position requires the power-side foot to be 4 to 6 inches from the starting line. In the squat stance, the smart-side or forward hand is lowered to the starting line. A bridge position is created by the hand with its thumb inside and four fingers held closely together outside. The other hand is placed on the power-side hip. The athlete begins to fall forward and quickly executes the start sequence with the smart-side
hand thrown back, and the other hand moving up and forward. The power-side leg must push hard and the smart-side leg must press off the ground quickly.
Verbal Cues: “push, press”, “elbow back.” • The 4-Point Start
Using the same ready-position as the previous drill, both hands should rest on the power-side knee, the shoulders dipped to knee-level. The hips remain high and the athlete should feel the stretch in his power-side hamstring.
At the “set” command, both hands should drop to the starting line. The hands assume the bridge-position and the distance between the hands should be the same as the grip-distance in the bench-press exercise. As force is applied against the ground, through both feet, the shoulders and hands will counteract the forces applied by the legs, hips, and gluteus. Holding his/her breath, the athlete explodes out with double-leg drive. The sensation is like that of a tightly wound spring that is freed.
Verbal Cues: “double leg drive,” “chest up.”
CATEGORY TWO: STANDING STARTS
Using a “standing start” position from the starting blocks was pioneered early in the twentieth century and this technique has been used randomly by the generations of sprinters that followed. The latest resurgence of this method began in 1988. Charles Moye developed a starting block specifically
designed for a standing start. It has been used extensively in training and competition on the high-school level. Though the implement is legal on all levels of competition, it has rarely been used in elite level competition.
RATIONALE FOR USING THE STANDING START
The “standing start” technique allows most athletes to assume a set-position where the maximum amount of force can be applied in the least amount of time. Athletes who can move more weight in less time from a quarter-squat position than a half- or full-squat in the weight-room should use the standing start. Those who can lift twice their body weight from a half-squat are well-suited for the crouched start.
Standard starting blocks with adjustable pedals can be set to accommodate the standing start. However, stability and ease of use is an advantage of the Moye Block -- which was designed only for this technique.
• “Ready” Command Position
The front pedal of a standard set of staring blocks should be set four-to- six inches from the starting line. The feet should load (curl) the toes elastically and be positioned so the shoe is in touch with both the track surface and the block pedal. The rear-foot shoes should be placed the same way on to the rear block-pedal. Both hands rest on the front knee -- which should not be bent, but merely unlocked. The shoulders should be lowered to knee-level and the hips remain in a tall position.
• “Set” Command Position
IAAF rules require both hands to be in touch with the ground prior to the start for all races up to and including 400-meters. National High School Federation rules, however, have no such requirement. Therefore, the high school sprinter can use a 3-point “set” stance (while the college- level athlete must use a 4-point starting position). The benefits of the 3-point stance include a) one hand being free to hold a baton comfortably and b) less flexibility being required. The 4-point stance allows more force to be applied prior to the start, which is required to reduce block-clearance time.
At the set command, in the 3-point start the smart-side hand is placed on the track surface, and the other hand on the hip. In the 4-point start, both hands are in touch with the track in a bridge position, bench-press grip distance apart. Force should be applied through both feet, keeping the hips high and holding that last breath until the fourth step in the acceleration pattern.
CATEGORY THREE: THE CROUCHED START
The pedals on the starting blocks should be positioned so that the power-side pedal is in front, and the smart-side pedal is back. Each athlete should begin with the front pedal placed two heel-to-toe foot lengths from the starting line, and the rear pedal positioned one and-one-half foot lengths from the front block. This simple guideline is very accurate because of the relationship between an athlete’s leg length and shoe size, whose ratio is remarkably consistent in all humans.
Facing the finish-line, the athlete should squat down and back into the blocks as if loading a spring. The spike-plates of both shoes should share contact with the track surface and the block-pedals so the resulting “curling” of the toes creates an elastic response. The hands are once again placed in a bridge position, bench-press grip apart. The head should not bow, but rather should remain in alignment with the back.
• Set Command
The athlete should inhale as he/she applies big forces to the block pedals, then lift the hips up and lock in that position by countering the force of the legs, hips and glutes with the shoulders, arms and hands. The strongest athletes will show a 90-degree angle at the knee on the power-side leg. Developing performers should allow for a more open angle stance.
• Block Clearance At the gun, many actions must occur simultaneously and the sprinter should continue to hold his breath so that maximum forces can be applied to press off of the back block pedal and quickly recover the smart-leg. The back foot should stay low and close to the track. The power-side leg executes complete hip extension which thrusts the body forward. The angle of the power-side leg should is about 45-degrees when fully extended. Full hipextension is critical. While the power-side foot is pushing off, the smart-side arm is thrown back, palm up and extended at the elbow. The other arm should come up and forward with the chest as it rises upward. The power-side arm will take a position just above the head as if shading the eyes from the sun.
When fully recovered, the smart-side foot is driven back into the track surface. It should land approximately five foot-lengths forward from the rear pedal of the blocks with the hips positioned directly above the foot. Extension of the smart-side hip then begins while the power- side leg is recovered. In the strides that follow, the skills learned in the Acceleration LadderTM training will be implemented.
Finish technique is a skill which should be taught, developed, and practiced. Acquiring this skill can often make the difference between winning and losing a sprint race. Here are two finish techniques which should be rehearsed often in training.
• The Trip Finish
Within five meters of the finish line, the sprinter throws both arms back, with palms up. The arms should approach a parallel position to the track surface. The head is turned to one side or the other so that the ear is flat to the track. The top of the head points across the finish. This unique body position forces the torso forward projecting it across the finish line. The athlete must continue to drive through the finish holding this position.
• The Swim Finish
This technique requires the sprinter to mimic a side-stroke two strides from the finish. The forward arm is that which is furthest from the auto-timing camera. The head turns and looks in the direction of the camera. The other arm is thrown backward. This body position rotates the torso just enough to provide a bigger target for the finish photo. The Swim Finish is recommended for use when the competitors are expected to be closely bunched at the finish. This is most often true in indoor competition for the short-sprint events.
Finish form should be rehearsed every time starts are practiced by setting a finish-line at about 20 meters from the start. Rather than leisurely coasting to a stop after a trial “rep” in from the starting blocks, athletes should blast through the finish-line using the technique prescribed by the coach. Hundreds of finish rehearsals can be practiced during the course of the training season this way.
Coaching the Relays
4 × 100 METER RELAY The objective of the 400m relay is to move the baton around the track as fast as possible. Having great sprinters means nothing if the baton is not passed efficiently without loss of speed. The goal is to maximize the speed of the baton; the speed of the runners only serves that purpose.
Your six best sprinters, regardless of event specialty, should be the group from which you choose the four members of your 4 x 100m relay from meet to meet. Coachability and the willingness to practice baton exchanges are prerequisites for 4 x 100m relay runners.
Placement of Individuals
1st Leg. Look for a good starter and curve runner. This is also the spot for a runner who does not receive the baton well.
2nd Leg. This is the only leg that is run almost entirely on the straight, so many Olympic teams place their fastest runner in the second position. Look for a runner who receives and passes the baton well.
3rd Leg. Ideally this should be your best curve runner and baton handler. Mishandling the baton on the 3rd leg spells defeat in the 400m relay.
4th Leg. This should be your best competitor. He or she must handle the pressure of anchoring, have the competitive spirit to close a gap, and have a strong enough ego to deal with being caught and passed on occasion.
Passing the Baton
There are several different methods of passing the baton: the alternating upsweep pass, the alternating downward exchange, the non-alternating upsweep exchange, and the hip exchange. All have been used effectively in international competition. The alternating downward exchange is the most common baton passing method. However, we recommend a slightly modi- fied version of the alternating upsweep pass for its advantages of speed, mechanics, and consistency. Both methods are discussed here.
Although the downward exchange is the most commonly used passing method, we prefer a variation of the alternating upsweep pass. Certainly, the downward or overhand pass is used widely, apparently adds some free distance, seems quick in its execution, and possesses the pizzazz of verbal commands with its ubiquitous “stick.” In fact, we believe it is an inferior method of passing.
For the overhand pass to work well, the two sprinters must mesh at one exact moment. This places tremendous demands of accuracy on young runners moving at full speed and effort, who are anxious and tired. As coaches see time and again, dropped passes are endemic with this method. The record of USA relay teams in international competition over the years should be sufficient evidence. Any success has really been the result of having far better sprinters than the rest of the world.
The argument for the overhand/downward exchange is that it is quick, comfortable and provides added free distance as the baton is passed with outstretched arms. Let’s address these claims point by point.
• Aquickdownwardslap,orflick,ofthebatondoesn’tmeantheexchange is keeping the baton moving fast. Once the incoming runner reaches out with the baton, he or she slows down because good sprint mechanics have been abandoned. The outgoing runner does the same with the added inhibition of leaning forward, thereby slowing acceleration. If the initial passing attempt is missed, both runners are forced to slow in order to pass the baton within the exchange zone.
• Manyrunnersliketheoverhandexchangebecauseitiscomfortableand closer to eye level. As with the sprint start, comfort doesn’t indicate prop- er mechanics. Hitting an open, waving hand at full speed with a baton moving down and back is very difficult. Moreover, the receiving hand is in poor position to grab the baton easily. A hand in this position is hard, meaning that the baton is likely to hit the wrist or butt of the palm rather than the soft crease of the thumb and index finger. In addition, an arm extended backward and held up to shoulder height tends to move around as the sprinter accelerates. Holding everything still inhibits sprinting.
Nonetheless, sprinters think that the slap of the baton with its accompa- nying verbal commands is fast. This is usually the case until the baton tumbles onto the track with its familiar ringing sound.
The Alternating Upsweep Pass
• Manyadvocatesoftheoverhandpasspointtothefreedistancegainedby passing at full extension. On the rare occasion that this actually occurs, some extra distance may be gained. But, if we compare two perfectly exe- cuted overhand and upsweep passes, the advantage is probably no more than a foot or two. The supposed advantage of free distance actually was conceived before the acceleration zone was added to the event. With so little room for the outgoing runner to build speed, any extra distance had greater significance. The better acceleration potential and safety of the upsweep pass are worth far more than a meter.
The Alternating Upsweep Pass
From the above rebuttal, it is clear that we recommend the alternating upsweep pass. The particular version we offer here is actually called “the alternating, underhand, upsweep, straight-tube, twist pass” (see John Tansley’s article, Track Technique, Winter 1991, #114). While the term is certainly a mouthful, its premise and execution are simple.
The upsweep pass has two overwhelming advantages. Its mechanics allow the baton to be passed with greater accuracy and safety. Because of this safety, the baton can be passed at greater speed, later in the exchange zone. These advantages fulfill the specific requirement of the event: to get the baton around the track quickly.
In comparison, the more fragile structure of the downward exchange requires the baton to be passed earlier in the zone at lower speed. The upsweep pass, done correctly, allows the baton to be passed safely in the last half of the zone when both runners are at high speed.
Let’s examine the features of the upsweep pass.
Alternating. As with the downward exchange, the baton is passed right hand to left hand to right hand to left hand. This allows the first and third legs to run close to the curve, eliminates switching the baton from one hand to the other, and helps avoid trouble if the sprinters run up on each other.
Underhand. An underhand pass has several distinct benefits. First, an object put into a hand held palm down closes almost automatically. In fact, babies are born with a primitive reflex that closes the hand when something is pressed onto the crease of the palm. Second, the outgoing runner presents a more stable target with the hand held down. Third, and most important, an underhand pass enables both runners to run through the zone with strong sprint mechanics. This allows the incoming runner to maintain speed and the outgoing runner to accelerate fully.
Upsweep. By passing the baton with an upsweep motion, the incoming runner does not lose speed by reaching far out with the arm. Even if the incoming runner “runs up the back” of the outgoing runner, the baton can still be passed at full speed. Moreover, if the initial pass is missed, it does not break the passer’s sprint rhythm. In the 1988 Olympic final, the Soviet relay team, using an upsweep pass, missed passes yet still won because speed was maintained throughout the zone.
Straight-Tube. With an underhand pass, the baton does not turn end-over- end with each pass. This does not lend any particular advantage.
Twist. One of the unique features of this passing method, albeit one that can be used with an overhand method, is the twisting of the baton up in the hand after the pass. This allows the runner to receive any part of the baton without having to tap it against the body. Usually, it only takes two or three simple twists of the thumb and fingers to put the baton in the hand proper- ly. Although some coaches will be dubious, the centrifugal force of arm action actually makes this quite easy. Try it for yourself.
Some relay teams using the upsweep, try to pass hand-to-hand. That is quite acceptable, but requires a very close and solid pass.
Patch Passing. One of the most important features of the passing method we recommend can be incorporated into any other method. It is the con- cept of patch passing. Patch passing has the outgoing runner mark a patch of 1.5 meters or 4–5 feet instead of a takeoff mark. Usually, the outgoing runner is forced to judge when the incoming runner reaches the takeoff point. Rarely does the incoming runner actually land on that point, thus demanding some very rapid judgment or proprioception on the part of the outgoing runner. Given that the runner is usually anxious, bent over, look- ing backward, and a teenager, that can be a pretty hefty demand.
Patch passing makes the “go” point consistent and easy to see. By creating a patch, the outgoing runner need only to watch for the foot of the incoming runner to touch the ground within the patch. Instead of judging, the outgo- ing runner only needs to react to a much simpler stimulus. If the incoming runner straddles the patch, the outgoing runner also knows to start.
Patch passing allows the outgoing runner to start with full acceleration at the same moment in every race. Minimizing anticipation and judgment cre- ates a safe and consistent pass with good acceleration. Of course, full speed practice is required to determine the correct patch placement on the track.
With the strong predictability of patch passing, verbal signals can even be eliminated. Passing by verbal signals is often subjective and inconsistent. In large, close races, it is very easy for these signals to be lost amidst the noise and confusion. With good patch passing, a predetermined patch or mark within the exchange zone can be laid. That way, the outgoing runner only needs to respond to his or her own acceleration. Once the runner hits the patch, back goes the hand. If the baton does not arrive immediately, he/she knows to slow somewhat until the baton is there.
The Alternating Downward Exchange
With this method, the incoming runner grips the bottom portion of the baton and passes it with a downward sweep to the outgoing runner who extends his/her arm back, palm up. Rather than changing hands with the baton, it is passed right-to-left at the first exchange, left-to-right at the second exchange, and right-to-left at the third exchange.
The baton always travels down the center of the lane, so the 1st leg runs in the inside half of the lane, the 2nd leg runs in the outside half of the lane and 3rd leg runs down the inside of the lane. This allows the 1st and 3rd legs to run the shortest distance around the curve and permits relay mem- bers to run up to each other without getting their legs tangled.
The Exchange Zone
The baton must be passed within a 20-meter exchange zone marked on the track by lines which cross the width of the lane. The exchange zone is pre- ceded by a 10-meter acceleration zone marked on the track by a triangle in the middle of the lane. The outgoing runner may begin his or her run-up into the exchange zone from anywhere in the acceleration zone. The baton must be received within the exchange zone to be a legal pass.
The Outgoing Runner
The starting position of the outgoing runner should be with both knees bent for good leg angles and both feet pointing in the direction to be run. Body lean should be forward with weight equally distributed over both legs. Both heels should be off the ground with the head turned looking back. The finger of one hand should touch the ground. Adjustments in the position of the “go” mark will then have to be made as the two runners practice the exchange, depending on the speed of the incoming runner and the accelerating skill of the outgoing runner. Factors affecting the speed of the incoming runner and the acceleration of the outgoing runner in every meet include the wind and the condition of the running surface.
Responsibilities of the Outgoing Runner:
• Remove all other “go”marks from your lane.
• Place your “go” patch all the way across the lane that will beused by the incoming runner.
• When the incoming runner hits the patch, turn and accelerate all the way through the exchange zone. Never slow or float to receive the baton.
• Stay in your half of the lane!
• Do no text end your hand back for the baton until the incoming runner calls for it or you reach your mark.
• Give the incoming runner a steady, soft hand when he or she calls for it (slightly cupped). Don’t grab for the baton, and never look back.
• After the race, discuss the execution of the passes with your incoming and outgoing partners and how you might be able to improve for your next relay. The Incoming Runner It is the duty of the incoming runner to get the baton into the hand of the outgoing runner. Responsibilities of the Incoming Runner:
• Catch the out going runner!
• Stay in your half of the lane.
• Do not extend the baton until you have focuse dont he hand. Do not decelerate, and never lean to reach the hand.
• Shove the baton upin to the crease of the palm hand.
• If you miss completing the pass on the first stroke, keep sprinting, and get it into the hand on the next stroke.
• Sprint all the way throught he zone, regard less of where you complete the exchange!
• Stay in your lane until the outgoing runner in every other lane has passed you.
• After the race, discuss the execution of the passes with your incoming and outgoing partner, and how you might be able to improve your next relay race.
Relay Practice Tips
• Practice baton exchanges at realistic racing speeds. Using a short run-up into the zone, many high school teams waste time practicing baton exchanges at speeds they cannot possibly achieve during the actual relay.
• Empha size main tainingt he speed of the baton through the zone. (If the two runners were invisible, you should not see the baton slow down.)
• Practice exchanges in different lanes, including Lanes 1 and 8!
• Do some baton practice with runners in ad join in glanes tosimulate the congestion and distractions they have to deal with in the zone (e.g. your 1 and 2 runners in Lane 3, your 3 and 4 runners in Lane 4, your 1 and 2 runners in Lane 2 and your 3 and 4 runners in Lane 5).
4 × 400 METER RELAY The 4 x 400m relay is the last running event in the track meet, so the results can determine the outcome of the whole meet. Conversely, a losing team effort can be uplifted by winning the last event, so the 4 x 400m relay can be pivotal to both teams in a dual meet. As with the 4 x 100m relay, a team that passes the baton well can gain on every exchange over a team that does not.
Your six best 400m runners, whether they are 100/200m specialists, hurdlers or 800m runners, should be the group from which you choose the four members of your 4 x 400m relay from meet to meet.
Placement of Individuals
1st Leg. Usually your second best 400m runner who can give you the lead or put you at the front of the field. This leg is run in lanes all the way, so it is not a spot for an 800m runner.
2nd Leg. In multi-team meets which use a three-turn stagger for the 4 x 400m relay, you want a 2nd leg who will run aggressively for the first 100 meters to position your team well after the break.
3rd Leg. This is where most teams try to put their slowest runner. But if your third best runner is good at hanging onto the leaders or closing gaps, you may want to place your slowest leg second.
4th Leg. This should be your best 400m sprinter, if he or she can handle the pressure of anchoring and has both the competitive spirit to chase and a strong enough ego to deal with being caught and passed on occasion.
Passing the Baton
The objective is to pass the baton from one runner to the next with no loss of speed. As with the 4 x 100m relay, there are several different methods used for passing the baton in the 4 x 400m relay. For the purposes of this manual, we will detail the safest pass:
The Semi-Visual, Non-Verbal Exchange
With this method, the lead-off runner begins with the baton in the right hand. All passes are made from the incoming runner’s right hand to the left hand of the outgoing runner, which means runners must quickly change the baton from the left to right hand after receiving it. The reason for the second, third, and fourth runners receiving the baton in their left hands is that it allows them to face the inside of the track. This enables the outgoing runners to quickly assess their adjoining lanes and avoid the confusion which often occurs after the 1st leg, when the relay is no longer run in open lanes.
Outgoing runners must judge the incoming runner’s position and finishing strength (read fatigue), just as they would judge the speed and trajectory of a fly ball when playing center field. When the outgoing runners judge it is time to go, they turn to face down the track, accelerate quickly for three strides, then reach back thumb-up to take the baton in their left hands.
Because of fatigue and blurred vision often experienced by incoming runners, their only responsibility is to run through the zone and extend the baton once he/she gets close enough to make the pass to the outgoing runner. It is the outgoing runner’s responsibility to take the baton from the hand of the incoming runner!
The Exchange Zone
The baton must be passed within a 20-meter exchange zone marked on the track by lines which cross all lanes. Unlike the 4 x 100m relay, there is no acceleration zone, and the outgoing runners must stand within the 20m zone to await the incoming runner. The baton must be received within the exchange zone to be a legal pass.
Responsibilities of the Incoming Runner:
• Drive all the way to the finish line and throught he exchange zone. Do not decelerate as you extend the baton to the outgoing runner.
• Do not extend the baton until you are close enough to make the pass to the outgoing runner in the zone.
• Do not try and place the baton in the hand of the outgoing runner. Make the baton a steady target and let the outgoing runner take it from you.
Responsibilities of the Outgoing Runner:
• Take the baton in full sprinting stride from the incoming runner, not standing still.
• Begin accelerating from the back of the zone looking straight a head. After three strides, look back and take the baton from the incoming runner with your left hand, thumb-up.
• Immediately change the baton from your left hand to your right hand (2nd & 3rd legs).
Applying Strategy to the Sprint Races 100 Meters The three phases of the 100 meters are:
1. The Start (first stride out of the blocks):
o Train for a rapid, consistent reaction to the gun.
o Move quickly into the “set” position so you aren’t left in the blocks by a quick gun.
o Get yourself into a good “set” position and trusty our ability to react.
o Do not concentrate on the gun! Concentrate on what to do at the gun! Drive the arm opposite your back leg off the starting line to begin the action of falling forward, which in turn triggers the reflex of the legs exploding off the block pedals.
o Think beyond the first stride! Visualize yourself running out of the blocks and accelerating down the track.
2. The Acceleration Phase (first 50–60 meters):
o Main tain relaxation by concentrating on being quick and lign no ton digging holes in the track.
o Don’t chase; run your race! Don’t focus on your opponent sand forget to run your own race.
3. The Stride/Lift Phase (final 40–50 meters):
§ Main tain your speed by main taining your mech a nics and relaxation. Never struggle!
§ Main tain your speed by main taining your mech a nics and relaxation. Never struggle!
• Don’t run to finish; run through the finish!
• Practice your lean so it occurs at the finish line, not before or after the line.
The four phases of the 200 meters are:
1. The Start (first strides out of the blocks): • Angle your starting block stangent to the to poft he curve. • All other considerations for the 100m start apply.
2. The Acceleration Phase (first 50–70 meters):
• In the 200m the entire acceleration phase occurs on the curve, so practice accelerating on the curve from the blocks in every lane.
• Don’t concede the race if you draw Lane 1! It is the longest and tightest curve to run, so prepare yourself by training in Lane 1 often. 3. The Transition Phase (from the curve into the straight, 77–100m into the race depending on the lane):
• Lean into the curve to create a slings hot effect when you enter the straight.
• Practice making the transition from the curve into the straight in the inside three lanes (the tightest curves). The more you have to lean into the curve, the more difficult the transition into the straight will be as you right yourself. 4. The Stride/Lift Phase (final 130–150 meters):
• Main tain your speed by main taining your mechanics and relaxation. Never struggle!
• Don’t run to finish; runt hrough the finish! Practice your lean so it occurs at the finish line, not before or after the line.
The 400 meters is a specialized speed-endurance event. These are the “rac- ing weapons” you must have to be a successful 400m sprinter:
1. The ability to judge pace. Recommended pacing for high school 400m runners, for the first 200 meters of the race:
• F-SGirls . . . . . . .best 200+4.0sec.
• Varsity Girls . . .best 200m + 3.0 sec.
• F-SBoys . . . . . . .best 200m+2.0–2.5sec.
• Varsity Boys . . . .best 200m + 1.5–2.0 sec.
2. The ability to adjust pace.
3. The ability to maintain rhythm.
4. The ability to maintain sprint mechanics in fatigue.
OTHER TACTICAL ADVICE FOR SPRINTERS
• In meets where you must run preliminary rounds, start fast and work no harder over the final stages of the race than is necessary to advance to the next round or final. Your objective should be to advance to the final with- out your opponents knowing exactly how fast you are capable of running.
• Warm-down immediately after your race to flush the acid buildupout of your muscles.
• If you have an other round or event torun, put on your tracks it imme-diately to avoid cooling off too quickly. Warm-up thoroughly for your next race.
A Training Periodization Plan for the CIF Season
The high school Track & field season can be divided into the following
• Pre-Season. . . . . . . .JanuarytoMid-February . . . . . . . . . .(6weeks)
• Early Season . . . . .Mid-February through March . . . . . .(6 weeks)
• Mid-Season ......April ..............................(4weeks)
• LateSeason ......May ..............................(4weeks)
Each period should have specific objectives and employ different training methods. Research has shown that 4–6 weeks appears to be the maximum sustained period of improvement for any single type of training. Therefore, your system of training sprinters should follow a seasonal training plan which uses a variety of training methods.
You must recognize that sprinters cannot train at high intensity and com- pete in 13–18 meets over the course of 20 weeks without the likelihood of becoming injured. Sufficient recovery after each hard training session and track meet is crucial for a sprinter to develop and attain his or her training objectives and performance goals. We cannot overemphasize the key role a complete warm-up and warm-down each day plays in enhancing restora- tion. Other restoration enhancement methods, such as massage, sauna, elec- trostimulation, and Jacuzzi can be helpful, but they cannot replace the body’s need for recovery time between bouts of hard training.