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U.S. Relay Teams Failed to Pass the Baton

It's the sound no relay runner wants to hear: Ping. Ping. Ping. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the United States men's and women's 4x100-meter relay teams dropped batons—and heard the pings of them hitting the track—during a disastrous performance that prompted the chief executive of USA Track & Field to promise a "comprehensive review" of the entire relay program. Four years earlier in Athens, shoddy baton passing by the American men had allowed a British relay team to pull off an upset, while the United States women were disqualified after a botched exchange. There have been similar troubles at the world championships.

On the surface, relay batons do not seem hard. They are about 12 inches long, smoothly cylindrical, free from adornments, and they go by a simple nickname: the Stick. Yet every runner fears the ping that can make years of hope come tumbling down the track. One sprinter compared the challenge of the baton exchange to a harried traveler's trying to catch up to (and hold hands with) his wife as he maneuvered on a moving walkway in a crowded airport.

But if you want to win, you have to pass the baton. Before the 2012 London Olympics, one of the men on the USA's relay team said, "We've got the history, and we've got the talent right now. No one can deny that. We just need to get the stick around. That's it. We just need to get the stick all the way around and win."

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Legacy; Leaders; Leadership; Mentors—are you passing the baton on to others behind you? (2) Parenting; Children; Youth ministry—are we passing the baton to the next generation"

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