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A pass in time
Tex Maule
April 20, 1959
As the outdoor track season opens, the intricate art of the relay takes the spotlight
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April 20, 1959

A Pass In Time

As the outdoor track season opens, the intricate art of the relay takes the spotlight

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The baton exchange is made from the left hand to the right, and the outgoing runner never looks back once he starts. He takes the inside third of the lane and the runner coming up takes the outside, shouting instructions as he comes up so that he will not overrun his teammate or be left too far behind to make the exchange in the zone.

"The world record team was ideal in personnel, too," Jackson said. "You find out that kids who tense up too much in individual competition very often make good relay runners because they feel that they're getting help. Everything doesn't depend on them. So they gain confidence, and sometimes a kid who has fine essential speed but who can't relax in individual competition learns to relax running relays. One of the kids on this year's team is jittery, but he'll probably get over that after a year or so.

"But to get back to ideal personnel. Obviously, you need your best starter—not your best sprinter—on the first leg. We try to put our second-fastest man on the next leg—a guy like Bill Woodhouse, who was a great sprinter overshadowed by Morrow. That's for the psychological effect. You come blowing in there for the second exchange with a healthy lead, and you make the other teams nervous and sometimes they'll blow the exchange. We figure that exchange—between the second and third runners—is the most important, and we like to put pressure on the other teams there. The third guy should be a calm, unexcitable boy. Segrest was perfect. He had a wonderful sense of rhythm. His timing on the exchange was the best I have ever seen. And he was a fine sprinter, too. The anchor man should be your fastest man and your best competitor, and we had Bobby Morrow."


Jackson's current sprint relay team blew the second exchange sadly in the Texas Relays. Calvin Cooley nearly slipped to his knees as he took off, and the incoming runner overran him (see picture on page 63) and had to slow up and make the exchange at half speed. Still, the youngsters managed a 41.3, exceptionally good for so young a team.

Eddie Southern, Texas' fine sprinter and quarter-miler, ran the second leg for his team for the reason Jackson pointed out. A veteran of the Olympics, Southern gave Texas a wide lead going into the second exchange, which helped hurry the other teams into something less than excellent baton passes.

Jackson's relay technique is fairly standard now, although there is one iconoclast among his rivals. Johnny Morriss, the voluble University of Houston coach, searching for an edge to make up for the lack of essential speed, stations his outgoing runner on the two "curve" legs in the outer third of the lane so that he can cut from the outside of his lane to the inside, thus flattening the curve. His runners alternate passes from left hand to right, and the pass is made from the top down instead of upward. The outgoing runner holds his hand back with the wrist turned toward the body, palm out, and he does not transfer the baton from right or left hand.

"I got to cut all the corners I can," Morriss says. "I don't get the boys. But there's really no substitute for speed."

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