Sumner, the returning Class 7A state champion in the outdoor 400 meters, was eyeing both records coming into the season after feeling good during his fall training, supervised largely by his mother, Tosha Sumner, an assistant coach at Woodstock. Also, he was motivated by the fact that his last race of the summer in 2021, the 800 meters at summer nationals in Oregon, was a dud.
But there were two different kinds of pressure involved with toppling the records. For the 500 meters, Sumner had never run the rare event before, and the meet in Virginia would be the only time he would be able to run it in high school.
“Not that many meets even feature a 500, so I knew going in that this would probably be my only chance at it,” Sumner said. “I knew this would be my one and only 500.”
As for the 600 meters, Sumner had been eyeing that record for a long time because of its significance to his family: his father, Brad Sumner, set the record in the event in 1989 as a senior in high school in upstate New York.
“It still feels surreal,” Will said. “I’ve wanted that record for a long time. When I saw the clock afterward, I was surprised. I didn’t think I had run that fast.”
His father, however, was not shocked at the time. He was there, taping the race.
“We knew he had the potential and with his (personal records) in the 400 (47.01) and 800 (1:51), that combination made it pretty clear he could break it,” said Brad, who along with Tosha was an all-American 800-meter runner at Villanova. “Each one of his splits he was on pace, and the announcer did a great job of calling it out, letting the crowd know he was going to do it. And it was great to be there to tape it, like my dad was there to tape it for me.”
After indoor nationals, Will has set his sights on another record: the Georgia state record in the outdoor 800 meters (1:49.6) before moving on to UGA in the fall.
“It felt like home and some place where I could carve out my own path,” he said. “I feel like I can go there and get even faster, and as a team we can contend for a national championship.”