This past Saturday morning's “Noah's Gift 5K” race in Hernando was a physical challenge for all of the participants who entered, but none more so than for cousins Clyde and Austin Wiggins who gave it their all.
Both young men had been friends with Noah Costa, the 16-year-old former Hernando Middle School student who passed away in 2010.
Clyde Wiggins was a good friend to Noah, and he, along with Austin, looked upon the race as a way of personally honoring their friend.
“We were best friends for many years,” said 25-year-old Clyde, “and for me personally, it's how I can honor our friendship.”
Clyde has run the 5K every year and has always come in either in first place or in the top three finishers. Saturday, he bested all other entrants in the inline skating category with a winning time of 14 minutes: 18 seconds, taking first place.
Noah's mom, Robin Hurdle, said she knew that Clyde's heart would help give him the edge in the race.
“Oh I knew Clyde would beat everyone and come in first," Hurdle said. "He and Noah were very close. The first year Clyde entered, he could barely see the course through his tears."
Those tears were a reaction to Clyde having accompanied Noah on his last earthly journey to Stoney Creek, Tenn. where the family has a burial plot. Accompanying Clyde and Noah's family was the entire Mississippi RiverKings hockey team and a devoted entourage of family and friends. They had bused to the site to honor Noah, whom they had befriended because of his love for hockey and his involvement with the team.
Seventeen-year-old Austin Wiggins outran all other entrants Saturday morning to come-in first place, with a winning time of 21 minutes, 42 seconds.
“I wanted to finish in the top three, but I was determined to put all my effort into the race and come out on top,” Austin said. And come out on top, he did. “Noah was friends with me and influenced me a lot. He taught me that I can succeed and accomplish anything I set my heart on,” Wiggins said with a smile.
As racers crossed the finish line and got their official time checked, everyone moved to the awards table to receive medallions.
Cousins Clyde and Austin Wiggins were called up first to be honored for their having won their categories; a win for both young men not only for physical endurance, but of the heart they have for a friend no doubt smiling down upon them.
To finish the race, the Good Book admonishes us to have kept the course.
And kept it, they did.
Proceeds from the race are used to benefit the Noah's Gift endowment with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. Grants include experiences in New York and London, a chance to sing at Carnegie Hall and go skydiving in Hawaii.
Grant winners this year as a result of Noah's Gift are as follows:
Daisha Cummings $1,600 to travel to London and Paris for a week - Spring Break 2018
Sarah Taggart $750 to sing at Carnegie Hall - May 2018
Emma Peacock $750 for Honors Trip to Greece - December 2017
Laney Forsythe $500 to travel to San Francisco - June 2018
Wyatt Dillinger $500 to skydive in Hawaii - December 2017
Luke Dillinger $500 to skydive in Hawaii - December 2017
Savannah Demers $500 to attend Broadway Program in NYC - Summer 2018.