by Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
LONDON -- Rising Baylor junior Wil London III ran USA's fastest split with a 44.08 leadoff leg in Sunday's 4x400-meter relay finals at the World Championships, but Trinidad & Tobago won its first-ever gold medal in the event with Lalonde Gordon outkicking NCAA champion Fred Kerley on the anchor leg.
Trinidad & Tobago won with a world-leading time of 2:58.12, with USA taking the silver medal in 2:58.61 and the host Great Britain team placing third in 2:59.0.
"People don't realize, (it's a big deal) to just get a medal when you've got everybody in the world there," said Clyde Hart, Baylor's legendary quarter-miler coach and Director of Track & Field. "We're kind of spoiled that if you don't get first place, second doesn't mean anything. But, I'm sure (London) is proud of the silver medal. Yeah, they're disappointed. They went in thinking they could win. But you've got to analyze it, there were three collegiate kids on that (USA) relay team."
Returning three of its four runners from the 2016 Olympics team that was disqualified in the semifinals because of a lane violation, Trinidad & Tobago had a crew that averaged almost 26 years old per man. By comparison, Kerley and third leg Michael Cherry just finished their senior seasons at Texas A&M and LSU, respectively, while London won't turn 20 until Thursday.
A three-time All-American, London also ran the leadoff leg in Saturday's semifinals, when USA posted a world-leading time of 2:59.23 that edged Trinidad & Tobago by just 12 hundredths of a second (2:59.35).
After a surprising third-place finish in the 400 meters at the USA Championships in June, London made it through the opening round by finishing second in his heat in 45.10 and finished 12th overall in the semifinals with a 45.12 clocking.
"I was proud of Wil just to be able to make the team and represent the United States, not only on the relay but in the open (400)," Hart said. "He made it to the semis, which that was one of our goals. Realistically, we didn't think he could get into the finals. But, he was 12th in the world. He went to the USA Championships ranked 17th in the United States and ended up being 12th in the world and third in the United States. So, he finished strong."
London, who ran a personal-best time of 44.47 at the USA Championships after an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, should be one of the favorites going into the NCAA indoor and outdoor seasons next year.
"It's got to give you some confidence," Hart said. "Every year is a different year and every year you kind of make your own bed. We don't put a lot of stock in it other than he knows when you've run against the best the world, you've got to feel pretty good about yourself."