Ask The Coaches: How Do You Organize Your 4x200m Order?

The Indoor 4x200m is one of the most exciting events in HS Track, the fastest race to ride the rails on an Indoor Track. Despite our long Winters, and hibernated training, New York has been able to keep up with the rest of the country when it comes to Speed Indoors. Recently, we looked at what the Girls and Boys All-Star Texas SMR teams might look like, once those Indoor legs find the sun of the Spring Season.

To follow up on that theme, we chatted with two of the State's Top Sprint Relay 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.

Does Speed outweigh experience? How important is that perfect handoff? What does it take to be the best. We asked those in-the-know what their decision making process was, in creating the perfect relay.

Ask The Coaches: What factors go into deciding the Relay Order for the below hypothetical Boys 4x200m?

Craig Joseph - Cardinal Hayes - 2020 NY #1, #5 All-Time (1:28.10)

Q: Does speed outweigh experience?  A: If the difference in speed is substantial, it will exceed experience, but if not, the experience will go a long way.

Q: Do you frontload or backload?  A: It is better for you to front-load a young team whereas an old team can run from behind. All things equal, I will go with my a good starter and my fastest leg at 2nd, next fastest at anchor.

Q: Does the three-turn stagger have an effect on your decision? A: Not really

Q: Does experience in the blocks outweigh ability to close? A: depending on the event, If they are comparable in terms of speed, yes, if not I will go with a closer (200 and up )

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Malcolm Burks - Newburgh - Indoor State Record Holders (1:27.64)

On the subject of putting a winning order together, there are many factors that come into play to prepare a 4X200m relay for the Indoor season - particularly during our summer training. If the athletes are better sprinters, we will be all in for the 4X200m relay. If not, we move up to the 4X400m - but for this case study, the focus will be on the 4X200m.

The strategy behind putting together a running order that will ensure the greatest chance of success at the state and national level is important. But does speed out-weigh experience? My answer is yes and no. Yes, because one of the most important factors in winning this relay is to keep the baton moving so that each outgoing runner can drive and accelerate to gain velocity when getting the baton. As a team, we have always executed our relay passes by using blind hand-offs so, this is where experience comes in for me. But on the "no" side, in this race, there is no real substitute for speed and competing a lot on the New York Armory's banked turns and a fast surface helps illustrate.

On whether to run from the front (frontload) or not, as a 4X200m relay team, we've held the N.Y. State record twice (in 2003 [1:27.67 with :22.4, :21.6, :21.6, and :22.1 splits] and in 2015 (1:27.64 with :21.80, :21.8, :22.02, and :22.02 splits]). For our program, the relay order comes down to who is the better runner out of the blocks, who has the best 60m speed to get to the cones, and who has the most difficulty taking or giving a hand-off. As you can see, I prefer running from the front (frontloading).

A three-turn stagger does have an effect on this decision, because, to put it simply, having a second leg get to the cones and get a clear position down the back stretch can make all the difference in winning or even finishing the race without a doubt. I cannot even begin to count the number of races I have seen where a runner got tripped up and went down on the cut-in.

I think experience in the blocks out-weighs the ability to close. Getting up front, free and clear of the jostling and traffic is a must as it is important to understand that the bank turns (especially at the Armory) are fast and can cause a runner to run high and running extra distance, which can cause decelerating into the straightaways which are only 50m and don't allow much room for passing. To me, this does not give an anchor leg a good chance of closing in a tight race.

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My organized hypothetical Boys 4X200m order, regardless of the age/grade of the athlete is:

First Leg - :22.4 (Great out the blocks)

Second Leg - :21.6 (Good 60m sprinter)

Third Leg - :23.2 (Runs well up front)

Fourth Leg - :23.3 (Might not be so good at giving a hand-off)