The Dallas Morning News
Fast relay teams bring in big points
Greg Riddle: Fast relays are the key to winning team state championships as Dallasarea schools have shown at the state meet.
In 2017, the Houston Lamar girls outscored Desoto 4613 in the 14 individual events at the UIL state track and field meet, with Lamar winning three individual state titles to Desoto’s none.
Desoto won the Class 6A team state championship by 19 points because it outscored Lamar 520 in the other three events — winning the 4x200 and 4x400 relays and finishing third in the 4x100.
That same year, the Mckinney North girls won the 5A team state title by scoring 56 of a possible 60 points in the relays. That allowed them to overcome the 12point advantage that Mansfield Lake Ridge had in the individual events.
In Texas, fast relays are the key to winning team state championships because they score twice as many points as individual events.
“Any time you can get three relays to state, you have an opportunity to win,” said Desoto boys coach Donald Miller, whose team won the 6A state title in 2016 by scoring 44 of its 54 points in relay events.
“I think it’s good, but I would rather have it set up like the college model. Everything is 10 points [for first place]. You can enter several people in individual races. I think that would open it up for a lot of schools
who don’t have the kids that run relays, and it would make the individual races a lot more competitive and faster.”
Lancaster boys coach Greg Williams favors the high school format, with scoring for relays starting at 20 points for first and ending at two points for sixth. That’s because there is a greater chance for disaster to strike in relays.
That is especially true in the 4x100 and 4x200, where sprinters have to hand off the baton three times — each within a 20meter exchange zone — while running at high speed.
“There are so many opportunities for things that could go wrong in relay events. The higher the risk, the higher the reward,” said Williams, whose school has won 18 team state championships in boys and girls track combined, the most in UIL history.
Duncanville entered last week’s District 86A meet with the fourthbest time in the nation in the boys 4x100 relay, according to Dyestat.com, having run 40.57. Dreams of a state championship died and the season ended abruptly for Duncanville’s 4x100 team when it was disqualified at district, the first of four postseason rounds (area, regionals and state are the others).
“They said we were out of the [exchange] zone. I don’t believe that we were,” said Duncanville coach Leon Paul, who filed a protest but had it denied. “It’s very disappointing. The kids have been working so hard since January. We spend hours upon hours [on handoffs].”
That kind of practice is necessary, no matter how fast you are.
Desoto’s girls enter Friday’s District 76A meet with the fastest time in the nation in all three relays, having run 45.07 in the 4x100, 1:36.56 in the 4x200 and 3:39.81 in the 4x400. Coach June Villers hasn’t had a relay team disqualified in postseason competition since 2014, and she wants to keep it that way as her team tries to win its fourth consecutive team state championship.
“We work the 4x1 a couple of times a week. We work the other relays twice a week,” Villers said. “All kids practice all relays all the time, no matter what events they are unless you are a pure distance runner. They are all ready to go at any time. We had two alternates go in at the state track meet last year in the 4x2, so we just make sure all year long they are ready to do that.”
Which relay is toughest to perfect?
“For the 4x1 it’s a lot different because you’re coming in faster that what you would be doing a 200,” said UTSAN Antonio signee Taylor Armstrong, who runs on the Desoto girls’ 4x100 and 4x200 relays. “When you get close to the line for the 200 you start to shut down a little bit more, but the 4x100 your momentum is going and you’re still increasing your speed.”
“I would say the 4x2 because the speed at which the kids are coming in is so varied due to the wind and how many events they ran that day already,” Villers said. “The 4x1 can be a train wreck if it’s wrong, but those steps are much easier to determine.”
UIL rules allow athletes up to three running events and two field events, and Villers tries to give runners who can score points in individual events at state the chance to do that while still fielding three state championshipcaliber relay teams. Arkansas signee Rosaline Effiong has the nation’s eighthfastest times in the 200 (23.73) and 400 (54.65), but at district she will compete in the 200 and on Desoto’s 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
Speed isn’t all that coaches consider when choosing the members and order of their relays. Williams factors in each runner’s dominant hand, their curve vs. straightaway running technique, how well they start in blocks, their mental toughness and their ability to adapt to unexpected changes.
Perfecting relay exchanges becomes more difficult when teams have to juggle their lineups, as the Desoto boys had to do because of injuries to Arizona State signee Jalen Drayden and Oral Roberts signee Donovan Smith. Desoto still has the nation’s fastest time in the 4x400 relay (3:12.34) and ranks sixth in the 4x200 (1:25.81) and seventh in the 4x100 (40.77).
Desoto is now healthy, and that had Kennedy Harrison (4x100 and 4x200) and Issac Hastings (4x400) both saying that the goal is to break national records in their relays. That would require running faster than 39.76 (4x100), 1:23.25 (4x200) and 3:07.40 (4x400) — and having flawless handoffs.