Controversial Hand-off May Have Cost Ducks

One of the great unwritten print stories of the NCAA championships last year was the controversial women's 4x100 meter relay. Texas A&M won in a collegiate record 42.36 but the result was protested by at least five teams.

Their men's team had already been disqualified for a bad hand-off in the preliminary round and the women were prohibitive favorites at the NCAA championships. They had won two consecutive championships in the event (43.05 in 2007 and 42.59 in 2008). Their first leg of the four-leg relay in those two years was junior Elizabeth Adeoti. She was also the opening leg of three previous meets.

For the Big 12 (42.97), Midwest Region (42.80), NCAA championships (and seven other meets) the coaching staff decided to go with junior Krystal Carter. Both were about equal in 100 speed but Carter was sixth in the Big 12 indoor 60 meters and was faster in the 200 meters (23.65 to 24.03), which has as its first curve a similar curve to the curve on the first leg of the 4x100 meters.

In the second preliminary round (total of three) Texas A&M ran the fastest time of 42.93 as Carter passed to 200 meter champion Porsche Lucas and she passed to Dominique Duncan and the last leg was Gabby Mayo. In the final Carter took off quickly but still had her hand on the stick as Lucas had the baton at the same time as both passed through the end of the passing zone. If Lucas had not held the baton as they passed through the passing zone it would have been an illegal pass. Since both had the baton it was questionable. A&M won in a collegiate record 42.36 as the baton was safely passed through the rest of the zones and there was no infraction flag raised.

At least five teams protested the result even though there was no red flag. One Pac-10 coach said he and his assistant saw the exchange referee not watch the race. There was a single protest committee made up of four referees in comparison to the past where there were a few committees covering different event types (sprints, hurdles, distance, jumps, throws).

This group of referees was made up of Shirley Crowe, Ed Gorman, Mark Kostek, and Fred Newhouse. All four are reputable members of the track and field community. Three of the them work for USATF and one runs the Drake relays. We don't know their votes but two voted to uphold the result and two voted not to. Because two voted to uphold the result the result of the relay stood. If there had been a red flag raised the two referees that voted against the race being fair would have likely upheld a disqualification.

As it was Texas A&M won the relay and won the meet the next day with 50 points to 43 for Oregon, 41 for Arizona State and 40 for Florida State. If the protest had disqualified Texas A&M, Oregon would have won with 43 points, Arizona State (moved from sixth to fifth in the relay) and Florida State (moved to second to first in the relay) would have tied with 42 points and Texas A&M would have finished fourth with 40 points.

That Saturday night the local Arkansas television station was raving how Texas A&M was not disqualified and Oregon fans that watched that newscast were abuzz with questions. If Texas A&M had been disqualified they may have scored more points in other events to make up for the loss of points but we will never know.

Texas A&M has already run 42.56 this year (Jeneba Tarmoh is first leg this year) at the Texas Relays and will be favored for their fourth straight 4x100 meter relay NCAA championship. They should also be favored for the team title again but last year the Oregon men and the A&M women left several points on the field in 2009 NCAA championship meet and both were probably the best teams that year. One team did get lucky.

We will have a live blog of the meet on Saturday.

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