June 7, 2017
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
EUGENE, Ore. - While you can't judge a book by its cover, Todd Harbour would certainly like to rewrite the first few chapters of Baylor track's story at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Sophomore Wil London was the only one of Baylor's six entries on the opening day to make it through to the finals, finishing third in his heat and seventh overall in the 400 meters with a time of 45.19.
"It feels great," said London, who was eighth at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships and 14th at the outdoor meet. "I'm taking it being calm, because you don't want to be too excited to make it to the next round and then not have any excitement for the final. I'm just taking it one step at a time, one race at a time, and ready to execute in the final and run fast."
London becomes Baylor's first men's 400-meter finalist at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since 2008, when fellow Waco High grad LeJerald Betters finished third.
With five of the eight qualifiers breaking 45 seconds, including Texas A&M's Fred Kerley with a world-leading time of 44.57, London will likely have to beat his personal-best of 45.02 to finish in the top half of the field in Friday's final.
"He's the last man in, so it's all above him and he's just got to beat some people, which I think he will," said Clyde Hart, who coaches Baylor's quarter-milers. "I can't see Wil finishing last, I really can't. . . . I know Wil has a better race in him, and I know he knows that, too."
It was a busy day for London, who also ran the second leg on the 4x100 and 4x400 relays that didn't advance.
Ranked seventh nationally coming into the meet, the 4x400 relay of Chris Platt, London, Caleb Dickson and George Caddick was leading at the halfway point when London turned in a 44.59-second leg and moved the Bears from fifth to first.
"I wasn't thinking about myself on that last kick, I was thinking about helping George get to the final," London said of Caddick, the lone upperclassman on Baylor's relay. "He said he didn't want today to be his last race in a Baylor uniform. That's the only thing that kept playing in my head is that I didn't want this to be George's last race."
Dickson couldn't hold the lead, though, falling back to third with a 47.06 split on the third leg that left Caddick .61 seconds out of Arkansas' lead and nipping at the heels of Auburn for the second automatic qualifying spot from the third heat.
Auburn got a 44.74 anchor leg from freshman Nathon Allen to win the heat in 3:03.59. Caddick turned in a 45.313 closing leg and made up most of the ground on Arkansas' Obi Igbokwe, but missed qualifying by one-tenth of a second in 3:04.20.
This is the third straight year the men's 4x400 relay missed the finals and just the fourth time in the last 38 years.
"He closed a lot of ground and was very close at the end," Hart said of Caddick, "but close only counts in a couple things, and this is not one of them. You've got to be there. George wanted it bad, but of course they all did. They all tried to get it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Today wasn't our day. We've been running better than that virtually every meet. We didn't run badly today, we just didn't run as good as we're capable of running."
That did turn out to be Caddick's last collegiate race, with the Bears finishing third in the heat and 10th overall. In the 400 semifinals, the Baylor senior was near the back of the pack coming off the final curve and didn't have his normally strong kick, finishing seventh in his heat and 16th overall in 45.89.
"I feel bad, not for the relay, but for George," London said. "He worked hard all four years. And for him to come up short his last year, I know it hurts."
It was a tough day for Willis, as well. The freshman sprinter came into the meet with the fourth-best time in the 200 (20.07) and 10th-best in the 100 (10.03).
But, he failed to advance in either events, placing sixth in his heat and 14th overall in the 100 with a 10.18 clocking and fifth in his heat and 18th overall in the 200 in 20.64. It was his slowest 200-meter race outdoors and slowest since finishing fifth at the NCAA Indoor meet with a time of 20.69.
The women get their turn Thursday, with sophomore Taylor Bennett running the 100 and 200 meters and both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. Kiana Hawn is in the 400-meter hurdles semifinals, while seniors Annie Rhodes (pole vault) and Cion Hicks (shot put) will get their final shots in the field events.
EUGENE, Ore. - On the first day of the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Baylor track and field sophomore Wil London advanced out of 400-meter semifinal action at Hayward Field Wednesday.
The Waco, Texas, product was the only one of BU's six entries in semifinal races on the track to qualify for event finals on Friday.
Despite getting off to a good start, London fell back in the middle part of his race. He then made his move with 175 meters to go and cruised up to fourth with 100 meters remaining. On the dash to the finish line, London closed well to take third in his heat with a time of 45.19. At that point, he was second of two time qualifiers for the final, but had to survive a third heat in which the third-place finisher could not be faster than his time. After a slow third heat, London was officially through to his first outdoor 400-meter final with the seventh-best time overall. The Waco, Texas, product was 14th in 400-meter preliminary action a year ago.
For only the fourth time in the last 38 years, Baylor's 4x400-meter relay did not advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships final. Chris Platt, London, Caleb Dickson and George Caddick finished third in their heat and 10th overall with a time of 3:04.20. Platt (47.01) handed the stick off to London fifth and at the break-in point the Bears were over 10 meters behind the lead pack. Just as he had done in his individual race, London (44.59) used a strong final 200 meters to take the lead with 75 meters left on his lap and handed the baton to Dickson with a three-meter lead. Dickson (47.06) held that advantage until the latter stages of his leg when he was passed by Auburn and Arkansas. Facing a .71 second deficit to Arkansas on the anchor, Caddick (45.32) closed the gap and nearly got past the Razorbacks to claim an automatic qualifying placing, but he came up just .10 seconds short.
Four other BU entries on the opening day also did not to get through to the semifinal round. Before anchoring the 4x400-meter relay Caddick, running out of lane seven in the second of three 400-meter heats, had a solid opening 200 meters, but coming off the final curve the senior was near the back of the pack and didn't have his normal strong close as he took seventh in his heat and 16th overall in 45.89.
Freshman Maxwell Willis was the lone men's athlete to qualify in two individual events. However, he missed advancing to the finals in both. In the 100 meters, the freshman got off to a solid start, but was unable to maintain that advantage in the early stages of the race finishing sixth in his heat and 14th overall in 10.18. In the 200 meters, the Upper Marlboro, Md., native was in a pack of three runners battling for third coming off the final curve, but he did not get to the front of that group and finished fifth in his heat and 18th overall in 20.64.
To open the day, the men's 4x100-meter relay of Malik Wilson, London, Willis and Ian Braxton finished 20th in a time of 39.62. Despite missing out on advancing to Friday's finals, the Bears' 4x1 relay made its seventh appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the last eight years.
London is Baylor's first men's athlete to qualify for the 400-meter final at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since LeJerald Betters was third in 2008.
TOP QUOTE #1
"Today, Wil lived for another day. I know he still has a better race in him. I know he knows that too, but he is in the finals and we will see what happens on Friday. He is the last man in, so it is all above him and he just has to beat some people, which I think he will." - director of track and field Clyde Hart on Wil London
Baylor's women's athletes will be in action Thursday at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. BU's first event will be the pole vault with Annie Rhodes starting at 5 p.m. (7 p.m. CT). Six more entries, the 4x100-meter relay, Taylor Bennett (100m & 200m), Kiana Hawn (400h), Cion Hicks (shot put) and the 4x400-meter relay will be in action later in the evening.
To stay current on all things Baylor Track, follow the team on Twitter: @BaylorTrack.
COMPLETE BAYLOR RESULTS
Q or q = Advanced to Event Final
100 Meters Semifinal
14. Maxwell Willis (FR) - 10.18
200 Meters Semifinal
18. Maxwell Willis (FR) - 20.64