Wil London III

By Kevin Tankersley

Waco native races his way to Tokyo Olympics

Wil London III is the first Waco native to be on the USA Olympic Team. A 2015 graduate of Waco High School, London ran track at Baylor, winning numerous Big 12 championships and being named an All-American four times. He owns the school-best time in the indoor 400 meters at 45.16 seconds and has the fourth-best outdoor 400 meter time of 44.47 seconds. (The Baylor record-holder in the outdoor 400 is London’s running hero, former Baylor athlete Jeremy Wariner.)

London’s parents, Wil London Jr. and Jacquelyn London, still live in Waco, “about 10 minutes away” from their son, London said.

London and Wacoan writer Kevin Tankersley talked by phone just over a week before London was to leave for the Tokyo Olympics.

WACOAN: Are you excited?

London: Yeah. I’m ready. I’m just taking it day by day.

WACOAN: When do you leave for Tokyo?

London: I leave next Saturday, [July 24].

WACOAN: This may be obvious, but what do you hope to accomplish?

London: I’m going to enjoy the experience, and win. Enjoy the experience, enjoy myself and win gold medals.

WACOAN: What races will you be running?

London: I’m in the mixed relay pool and the 4-by-400 relay pool. I don’t know which one I’ll be running, but I’ll find out when I’m there.

WACOAN: I’m sure you’re consumed by training right now, but when you have a break, what else do you like to do?

London: I usually like to go fishing, but I simply haven’t been able to go this year because of how busy my year has been. Right now, I’m just enjoying my time. When I’m not at practice, I relax, watch a movie or take nap.

WACOAN: What kind of fishing do you like to do?

London: It depends. I’ll fish for bass, but I mostly like going catfishing.

WACOAN: When you’re catfishing, is it catch and release?

London: It’s catch, keep and eat.

WACOAN: Do you train here in Waco?

London: I still train here in Waco. I train here with Coach [Clyde] Hart here at Baylor. He’s one of the greatest to ever do it.

WACOAN: At Waco High, did you do any other sports besides track?

London: I played basketball, and I played football. I stopped playing football my freshman year at Waco High, and I stopped basketball my junior year. I stopped those to concentrate solely and fully on track.

WACOAN: When did you graduate from Baylor?

London: I finished at Baylor in 2019 and Waco High in 2015. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology.

WACOAN: Whenever your track career ends, what do you hope to do then?

London: I want to get into coaching or maybe own a gym. Have my own gym to help kids make it to the next level, kind of like a Michael Johnson Performance center [in McKinney, Texas], in a sense. I don’t think we have enough or any in Waco. We have some great gyms in Waco, but I would like a gym solely to help kids reach the next level and help college kids who come back home to train.

WACOAN: Do you have any heroes in the track world?

London: [Former Baylor runner and multi-Olympic medal winner] Jeremy Wariner. Jeremy Wariner was my favorite guy growing up. I grew up watching him train here at Baylor with Coach Hart. I ran summer track here with Team Waco, and they would practice after us, so I was able to watch them practice. It was always a great opportunity to learn how they practiced and see them firsthand.

WACOAN: When you’re in-season, how close do you have to watch what you eat?

London: I watch everything I eat. I cook all of my meals so I can simply have an easier way of watching what I eat. If I go out to eat with friends or out to eat with family, I tend to lean on the healthier side. For lunch, I’ll eat Tropical Smoothie [Cafe] or Chipotle or the lighter places where I can have my better meals but still enjoy eating out.

WACOAN: When you cook for yourself, what do you normally cook?

London: For breakfast, I’ll have all the food groups. A couple of pieces of toast, maybe oatmeal, fruit and a couple of eggs. For dinner, grilled chicken breast or a piece of salmon, veggies, rice or mashed potatoes or a sweet potato. Sometimes I’ll substitute a smoothie for the veggies and have everything else.

WACOAN: Was it frustrating to have the Olympics postponed last year? Did that throw you off your training schedule?

London: At first it did, because no one knew what was going to happen. It was like, it was going to happen and then it’s not. It just changed so much because we didn’t know what was going to go on. Then not knowing who was going to go, and they were saying that they were just going to pick people to go instead of having the trials. You just heard too many different stories.

But it also kind of helped because I was able to have a break [in training]. I hadn’t had a break since I enrolled at Baylor and started my season my freshman year.

WACOAN: How does it feel to be the first Waco native to be an Olympian?

London: It’s a big deal, but I also don’t want to put too much on myself to think that I have to accomplish this. I want to go out there and be able to do what I know how to do and just enjoy myself and be able to put a great name out for the city.

WACOAN: I’m not sure exactly how this works, but are you working anywhere else or only concentrating on running?

London: I’m solely concentrating on track. This year, I just wanted to solely concentrate on track and concentrate on myself. I’m my own business, so I want to make sure I put my own business first before I put anything else there.

I signed with Nike coming out [of college], and we have different opportunities to earn grants with [USA Track & Field]. I don’t need a lot of money. As long as I can pay bills and everything, then I feel like I’m good. I’m not in any stress monetarily. I don’t have any complaints.

WACOAN: Have you ever considered any other career besides running?

London: No. This has always been my go-to. I’ve always set myself out to be a professional athlete. Before track, I really wanted to pursue basketball, but that obviously didn’t work out.

I’ve never had a backup plan. I’ve always put this one first. I’ve always told myself this is what I wanted to do and given my all to do it. I’ve always put 100 percent in trying to be a professional athlete and making sure it worked out.

WACOAN: When you’re getting ready for a race, what do you have to do to be mentally prepared?

London: I don’t try to overbear myself on preparing, because I go into practice every day prepared to run fast. I go into practice every day like it’s a race. Since I’ve prepared during practice, it’s easier to prepare when I’m at the meet, because I’ve done it every day for the past five or six days or however long I have. It doesn’t take much for me to prepare because I’ve done it. So when it comes to the meet, I know what I’m doing. I’m ready to run fast.

WACOAN: Did you watch the Olympics when you were a kid?

London: Every year they had it. I watched it in 2016 when I went to the Olympic trials during my freshman year in college. And when I didn’t make the team, I told myself I wasn’t going to get left out the next time.

WACOAN: Did you dream of running in the Olympics when you were younger?

London: Just like when a kid plays football, he says, ‘I’m going to be in the NFL someday.’ It was one of those things where I knew I wanted to make it happen, but the one person more than anybody who was like, ‘You’re going to do it,’ was my dad.

As a kid, you think, ‘I’m gonna be in the Olympics one day. I’m gonna be the fastest guy in the world one day.’ I had that kind of mentality, but as I got older, I started to realize how much harder it actually is than just saying it. But the one person who always believed in me was my dad. He was never the type who would say, ‘You’re going to do it because you’re my son.’ He was always, ‘You’re going to do it because I know you can.’ He’s always had that belief in me.