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Jamaican Juniors Who Unleash Their Power on The Backstretch
- Updated: 06/26/2019
The backstretch/second leg of the 4x100m relay is fascinating to watch; for me it is usually where the party begins, and the magic happens.
Quite often, it’s run by a sprinter who is good at 200m; however, sometimes a 100m specialist, who doesn’t run the 200m at all, is positioned at the first exchange. There’s a common believe that the second leg is the longest (but is it?) and requires someone whose speed will decrease at a slower rate than his/her rivals’ before passing the baton.
Some international elite athletes who have done back-stretch duties in recent times include Holland’s Dafne Schippers, USA’s Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin, and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare. Jamaica also has had a number of them, such as Michael Frater, Yohan Blake, Julian Forte, Kerron Stewart, Elaine Thompson, and Shericka Jackson.
There’s also a theory that the second leg should be run by a tall athlete who finds it less challenging to accelerate on the straight, unlike the shorter person who can negotiate the curve of the first/third legs because they are closer to gravity. Frater, now retired, has defied two theories about who is best suited for this leg; he is short and did not run the 200m as a professional, but he was a beast on the second leg, seemingly because his stride turnover was rapid and made up for the longer strides that his taller associates may have.
Allyson Felix, Shericka Jackson
Felix is a 200m and 400m specialist but can quickly reach top speed on a 100m relay leg, perhaps because of her highly efficient running starts. Jackson is versatile across 100m, 200m and 400m, but her ability to close quickly on the 100m straight makes her a danger on the second leg or anchor. Felix and Jackson could spoil any party on the backstretch, no matter who they are up against.
While it’s a beauty to watch taller athletes such as Schippers, Thompson and Okagbare fly down the backstretch, post-high-school Usain Bolt looked ineffective on this leg as he seemed to take a relatively long time to get into his stride rhythm.
The same idea about who runs the second leg holds true at the high school level in Jamaica, where Calabar’s 200m/400m champion Christopher Taylor, for example, is placed there to move his team into the lead.
Seen in these photos after competing in the 4×100 at the 2019 Penn Relays are just a few of island’s junior athletes who carry out second-leg duty for their schools. They all command attention, even though their best event might not be the 100m.
From left in the girls lineup are Kevona Davis of Edwin Allen High School (100m and 200m); Sashieka Steele of Holmwood Technical High school (100m, 200m); Ashanti Moore of Hydel High School (former heptathlete who, like Schippers, switched to 100m and 200m); and Joanne Reid of St. Jago High School, known more for her 200m and long jump exploits.
The boys, from left, are Evaldo Whitehorne of Calabar (400m, who replaced an injured Taylor at Penns and who registered the fastest split in the 4x400m final; Michali Everett, Jamaica College (100m); Roshaun Rowe, Kingston College (100m); Vashaun Vascianna, St. Jago (100m, 110m hurdles); Jeremy Farr Wolmer’s Boys (400m, 400m hurdles); and Jevaughn Whyte, Ruseas (400m).
Although all legs are important, one key strategy for setting up the 4x100m is that the second-leg runner should be capable of completing a strong 100m and formidable enough to get his/her team into the lead or, at least, prevent the team from falling behind.