It has been my observation that if you time high school athletes on the straight and lane 2 on the turn, the top six rankings can be dramatically different for the straight versus the turn. In other words, a ranking of 1,2,3,4,5,6 on the straight may be 2,5,3,1,4,6 on the turn, which is to say, some athletes can sprint well on the straight but can’t manage the turn. I have informally polled many high school coaches regarding their selection of the athletes for the relay, and most will select the four fastest 100 meter times. IMHO, this can overlook the ranking disparity in the example above. Two of the athletes have to run the turn and if #5 on the straight is #2 on the turn, what then?
The high school track season is rather short, and I like to get some data early in the season so I get a rough idea about leg assignments. (This is only preliminary and may change due to athlete development, injuries, grades, and other issues.) I use the 35 meter low hurdle marks for fly-in sprints on the straight and the turn. The markings are already there, and I don’t have to use a wheel to measure the turn. I use lane 2 because I prefer to accentuate the affects of the turn, but avoid the potential for stepping on a rail in practice. I used Brower for many years, but having switched to Freelap, I can leave lane 1 open for the distance coach. (I can also simultaneously measure both athletes and all the zones throughout the hand-off, which is not possible with photo beams due to multiple athletes breaking the beam).
I have also observed a disparity in the acceleration of some athletes when when an athlete is coming in versus no athlete coming in. I set up the timing equipment to measure their acceleration. Every other acceleration is done with an athlete coming in (no baton, just wait for the mark and get out) and then by themselves. I show them the numbers, and they can see for themselves that they are hesitating when someone is coming in. I let them know that they don’t need to hesitate, and we will make any needed adjustments with the steps.
To further encourage the outgoing leg to get out and the incoming leg to “run through” the exchange zone, I use exchange zone races. I divide the lane in half using flat soccer cones. The outgoing leg has to wait for the mark, and then it’s a full-on race to the end of the exchange zone (no baton). I measure these accelerations as well. The first few times, the incoming leg will often blow by the outgoing leg. After a few practices, the outgoing leg will make the mental adjustment need to get out, and their accelerations with an incoming leg will begin to match their accelerations with no incoming leg. I continue to time their accelerations when we add the baton pass.
As the season progresses and I gain confidence in the leg selection, on some speed days, I may have legs 1 and 3 do some speed work on the turn with a baton in their hand. I place the transmitters on the low hurdle marks and record the fly-in times just as I monitor the speed on the straight. I record the lane number as our lane assignments may change from practice to practice.