by Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Tempered with the disappointment of not winning a gold medal in his first trip to the World Championships, Baylor junior quarter-miler Wil London saw his confidence rise in running leadoff leg on the USA's runner-up 4x400-meter relay team.
"I ran the open 400 and didn't make it to the final, so I was already disappointed from that," London said Tuesday after returning from the 12-day World Championships in London, England. "But, I wanted to go out there and just continue to run fast for my team, for the 4x4. Even though we didn't get gold, I'm going home with a silver (medal) and I know I'll be back, so there's no reason to complain."
London, who was ranked 17th in the United States going into the USA Championships in June, was a surprising third-place finisher at the national meet and made it through to the semifinals at the World Championships. He ran 45.10 in the opening round and 45.12 in the semifinals, the 12th-fastest in the field.
"It's great enough having Baylor on my chest, but when you run for your country, it's like no other," he said. "You go out there and you run and you compete and you do it for not only the people in your city, but you do it for the people in the nation."
In both the semifinals and final, London ran leadoff leg on the USA 4x400 relay, turning in a blistering split of 44.08 in the final. Anchor leg Fred Kerley was passed in the last 100 meters, with the Americans finishing second behind Trinidad & Tobago (2:58.12) with a time of 2:58.61.
"It was crazy. I was a little nervous to begin with, but I had to get my composure and get it right," London said of the pressure of running the leadoff leg. "I talked to Coach (Clyde) Hart before the race, and he told me it's just like you're running for Baylor, just like you're running a small meet if you still went to Waco High. You go at it the same way and you attack it."
The 44.47 time he ran in the 400 meters at the USA Championships is the third-fastest in Baylor program history, ranked only behind former Olympic gold medalists Jeremy Wariner (44.00) and Michael Johnson (44.21).
"That wasn't surprising at all," London said of his PR time, which was more than a half-second better than his previous best. "The way we train at Baylor, we don't want to train and drop fast times at the beginning of the season. I just dropped it at the right time. From what me and Coach Hart talked about at the beginning of the season, he told me that I was going to be dropping times like that at that time of the season. And that's exactly when it started. I know this upcoming season, I should be starting about those times and finishing way faster."
London's performance also puts a huge target on his chest for the rest of the collegiate quarter-milers trying to knock him off next year.
"I have to go in and work 10 times harder," he said. "I can't go in lacking at practice. I've got to take leadership of the team, and I've got to be willing to work harder and get better."