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The exchange of the baton is very important in relay races. This is where a runner completing their leg passes the baton to the next runner beginning their leg. In most races, this is where the team can loose time and position, or be disqualified. When a runner is finishing a leg and is preparing to hand off the baton to the next runner, the passing of the baton takes place in the exchange zone.
This zone is marked off on the track, and is the only place where the baton can pass from one runner to the next. If the baton is handed off outside of this area, the team is disqualified. This is usually not a problem in most longer races, but in the shorter races where the speed is greater, this becomes a delicate issue. When the exchange of the baton is practiced frequently, the exchage goes smothly, and the team can continue without hesitation. It is when this exchange is not practiced, where teams will face the most difficulty.