WACO, Texas — Wil London III is set to become the first Waco native to compete for Team USA in the Olympic Games when he serves as an alternate for both the men's 4x400 meter relay and the mixed 4x400 meter relay.
London is the latest in a long line of successful 400-meter runners to parade through the Baylor track program, following in the footsteps of gold medalists like Jeremy Wariner, Darold Williamson, Reggie Witherspoon and Michael Johnson. The group has helped earn Baylor the nickname 'Quarter Mile U.'
Baylor earned that reputation under long-time Head Coach Clyde Hart, who retired from Baylor in 2019.
"To me, the 400 is the backbone of your team," Hart said. "That 400 event, the kid either has to have the speed of a sprinter or the endurance of a half-miler."
Hart said the 4x400 meter relay was his favorite race. In a typical meet, it is the final event, and Hart said he always wanted to see the fans go home happy.
When he retired, London III asked Hart if he would consider helping him train for the 2020 Olympics. Hart reluctantly agreed, thinking it would just be a one-year commitment.
Then, the IOC canceled the Olympics due to COVID-19, extending Hart's commitment an extra year.
"Coach Hart makes the process way easier," London III said. "He's had some great athletes, Olympians, world record holders. To have him, he knows how to control practice and control me to stay poised and ready to go."
Hart says he recognized London III's talent at a young age, when he saw him running in Waco's youth track organization.
"Even as a little kid running in the summer meets, you can see that he wanted to win," Hart said. "He didn't talk it. He did it."
London III qualified as an alternate on the relay teams, meaning he will step in and compete if another runner gets hurt or is forced to withdraw due to a positive COVID test.
"Our goal was to get him on the Olympic team," Hart said. "That's a goal of every track youngster that ever ran, deep down, is to get that USA uniform."
London III hoped he would be able to run in the 400-meter race as an individual, but a sub-par performance in the finals of qualifying relegated him to the alternate position. In the last month, he says his emotions have been all over the place.
"It's one of those things where I just had to kinda find a way to put my emotions all in one and bottle it up," London III said. "But I think since I'm a week out, now I'm getting excited."
No matter what happens, his coach says he knows London III will be a great ambassador for the region.
"Regardless of what Wil London does, he is going to represent Waco very well," Hart said.