Ask The Coaches: How Do You Find The Perfect 1200m DMR Leg?

The Distance Medley Relay is one of the most popular events in HS Track, that has yet to find a home at the New York State Meet. Regardless, it hasn't stopped the Empire State from producing some of the best time's in country's history. Recently, we looked at what the Girls and Boys All-Star DMR teams might look like.

To follow up on that theme, we chatted with four of the State's Top DMR Coaches in History, on what it takes in forming their relay. While there was agreement on some aspects, the different programs' philosophies can also be seen. There is no one way to create a perfect relay, but there are some tried-and-true steps to take.

Be sure to tune in on Friday, where we conclude our DMR week with a chat with a member of the 2020 Notre Dame DMR, who collectively ran 9:25.80 in late February for an NCAA #2 All-Time mark. We'll discuss what it felt like to be defending champs, the training that went in to improve, and break down what happened on the fateful NCAA shuttered 48 hours before the gun.

Ask The Coaches: What is your thought process in selecting a 1200m leg for the DMR?

Mike Potter - Warwick Valley - NY No. 1 All-Time Outdoors - Boys DMR (9:59.03)

For me, selecting a 1200m leg for a DMR varies on numerous conditions. What time of year is it, what meet are we at? What are we trying to accomplish? For sake of argument let's put ourselves in a National Championship situation. This answer again varies year to year based upon the team make up and clientele. The decisions I make come down to a few things: 1- looking at athletes history and make up. At the National level you need one of your toughest athletes to run the 1200m. Someone who you have complete confidence in to get the job done. The 1200m leg to me makes or breaks a top level DMR. Too many times you see time left on the table 1200m that cannot be made up and at the top levels you can't be playing catchup. The 1200m leg to me needs to be a perfect mix of someone who can run the mile in say 4:20, yet have 50.x capability. Someone who is not afraid to run up front in a pure guts race and set the tone for the rest of the relay. Someone who run splits, yet compete. I feel the 1200m is very split oriented. 2- It's a math game. I do a lot of math on a lot of different legs to see what I feel gives us the best chance to run our fastest time and place the best.

    Each race, each day in practice the athletes are being visually interviewed by the staff. Throughout the years and seasons you get to learn the make up of each athlete and what makes them tick, hopefully leading us to make informed decisions of who races which legs. As far as conversions go I am not too big on that. Fortunately being from New York it does help that we race the 600m and 1k Indoors unlike a lot of states. It does help the athlete racing at an awkward distance and helps me in collecting information about the athlete.  I tend to look at the whole body of work that kids have to their name. How they respond in certain situations, what kind of times they can hit in practice, etc. For us there is not auto spot such as putting our best miler on leadoff or anchor. At Warwick we have had it both ways and have had success doing it both ways in different years. As far as getting off the line, I don't feel the 1200m that is important at all. There is plenty of time to get in position and be where you want to be at the exchange.

    Brian Diglio - North Rockland - NY No. 1 All-Time Indoors - Girls DMR (11:34.85)

    So far, the question has always been answered for me - I have not had the luxury of choosing to bring up an 800 runner, all of my leadoff legs have been distance girls brought down to the 1200.  I am not adverse to a mid-distance girl running the 1200 leg, but it is such a tough race, that I prefer the strength and toughness of a distance runner.  If she is able to go through 800m in the low 2:20s (as many teams can), she has to have the strength to hold that pace for another 400 and I believe that is best handled by a distance runner.

      I don't worry about conversions too much, but I certainly want my 1200 leg to have run some fast 1000s!

      The presumption certainly is to put your fastest miler as anchor, but it would depend on a series of factors.  Most importantly, how great is the time difference between your two milers?  I believe the 1200 leg is the most important, but a great miler can make up even more ground.  How great a hammer you have on the anchor is what drives the answer.  Can they run consistent enough splits and not charge out too hard trying to close the gap on the leaders if they are behind?  There are so many variables to look at, the easiest answer is this - you need a great 12 and 16 leg if you want to be big-time.

      Getting off the line is maybe to least significant of the factors I would look at. I happen to believe that most 1200 legs go out too hard and I'd rather my 12 girl come off the pace and catch people the last 400 meters of the race. So while I would like them to get out well, it is certainly not critical. By 400 meters into the race, they should be where we need them to be.

      Tim Dearie - St. Anthony's - NY No. 1 All-Time Indoors - Boys DMR (9:58.36)

      When I am putting together a quality DMR, I look to see which combination of the runners will get the best result overall. For the 1200m specifically, being an aggressive guy off the line is essential. In high level races like Penn or the Nationals, being up near the front increases the relay's chances tremendously of getting on the podium or having a shot at winning.

        The 1200m man also has to be a gamer. One of those boys who sticks their nose right in the thick of things from the get-go. He doesn't care about anyone's PRs or press clippings. His only focus is to get the job done and not let his boys down. Another quality that goes hand in hand with that is being relentless - a poor start, a stumble, getting cutoff, or the myriad of things that can happen, do not deter him whatsoever. Our mantra is " nothing unnerves us," and he must personify this.

        My son Brendan lead us off at Penn where we won last year in that monsoon, got right to the front of the pack, dropped back as far as 5th but ended up handing off tied for 2nd in a PR of 3:06.1.  Under good conditions that might have been 3:03-3:04. He beat guys who had PRs of 1:51, and sub-4:15. He went after what he had to do without fear and would rather have died than let his guys down. 

        Neal Levy - North Shore - NY No. 3 All-Time Outdoors - Girls DMR (11:30.45)

        Honestly, from a pure time perspective it usually is whomever has the ability to run the fastest split other than the 1600 leg.

        However, back when we ran 11:30 in 2011-2012 time frame the question was asked quite a bit since both Brianna Nerud and Samantha Nadel both were low to mid 4:40 milers. In that situation, Samantha thrived on running the anchor, and Brianna excelled in just trying to get the biggest lead possible. I guess looking back on it, I should have reversed it at least once, however the result probably would have been pretty comparable. As far as conversion factors, since Nerud's split was done at Penn Relays it stands for itself.