You can learn a lot from studying abroad.
Here’s what Wil London learned, or rather had reinforced: He can compete with the best runners in the world.
London, who started his junior year at Baylor on Monday, has a pretty great “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” tale to share. On Aug. 13, the former Waco High standout captured a silver medal at the IAAF World Track and Championships, logging the leadoff leg for the U.S. 4x400-meter relay team.
Better yet – he clocked the fastest split time (44.08 seconds) of any of the Americans in that race. And though London didn’t reach the final in the open 400 — stalling out in the semifinals with a time of 45.12, the 12th-best effort in the field – he is oozing with confidence after a highly successful summer.
“Of course, I have a lot more confidence going into (the NCAA meet) next year,” London said. “There’s going to be a target on my chest, of course. So, I have to go in and I have to work 10 times harder. I can’t go in lacking at practice, I’ve got to take leadership of the team and I’ve got to go in willing to work harder and get better.”
London finalized his travel reservations to the World Championships – fittingly, in London, England – by finishing third in the 400 at the USA Track and Field Championships. There, he put it all together with a personal-best time of 44.47, the third-fastest ever by a Baylor quarter-miler behind Olympic gold medalists Jeremy Wariner (44.00) and Michael Johnson (44.21).
That breakthrough didn’t surprise London, though. He sensed that it was coming.
“That wasn’t surprising at all,” he said. “Me and the rest of the team, we worked to get to that point. And the way we train at Baylor, we don’t want to train and drop fast times at the beginning of the season. And I just dropped it at the right time.”
Nothing would have satisfied London more than to have returned from England with a pair of gold medals stuffed into his carry-on bag. But he still wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. The first time he slipped on his bright blue USA singlet, it gave him chills.
“It’s great. It’s great enough having Baylor on my chest, but when you run for the 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.”
The trip marked London’s first exposure to England. But he’s starting to collect an impressive array of stamps on his passport. Track has now taken London, who cut his track and field teeth competing for the City of Waco’s summer track program, to all over the globe, including Poland, Italy and Australia.
The trip to London turned out to be his favorite trip thus far.
“So far, it’s London, because the people there love my last name,” London said. “They showed the most love, and I love them for that.”
London finished eighth at the NCAA meet in the 400 in June, running 45.72 in the final. It was an All-America showing, but given how he performed at the USAs and World Championships, he knows he has medal-climbing potential.
He also is well aware that it will require a lot of work.
“In track, you never know what you’re going to get,” London said. “You just have to take it day by day, week by week. You have to take it from each track meet to the next. And it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be frustrating. But as long as I trust in the coaches and the training staff, then I should be fine.”