Since Todd Wiggins crossed the finish line in the inaugural New York City Ironman Triathlon held Aug. 11, three states have found ways to tie him to their hometowns. But anyone who taught Wiggins (kindergarten through high school), coached any of his athletic events or watched him walk across the stage and accept his diploma, knows his true ties are in Mexico.
It's true, the 1989 MHS graduate was born in Columbus, Ohio, moved to Cape Girardeau with his family as a small child, and then landed in Mexico, where he grew up. He attended all levels of public schooling here and played middle school football, track and basketball. In high school, Wiggins scored even more fame in basketball and golf.
He lives in Hoboken, N.J., is president of a business resource company called Trivergance Operating Companies and the father of two teenage daughters, Brooke and Halley.
With such a sports-related background, it's no wonder the nearly 41-year-old was so easily drawn in when a friend and his wife first introduced him to the sport. The couple also runs triathlons. "I've always been curious about triathlons, so I decided to give it a try," Wiggins told The Ledger in a recent telephone interview. He ran two smaller triathlons and an Eagle Man race to prepare for 140.6-mile Ironman course that started in New Jersey and ended in New York.
The course – consisting of a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River, a 112-mile bike ride and a full marathon of 26.2 miles – also called for workouts six days a week, a slight diet change, and what Wiggins calls his "weekend 80-mile bike rides."
He crossed the finish line with a time of 13:04.17– not bad for his first Ironman Triathlon.
"For me, it wasn't about placing. Hearing them say my name as I crossed the line and say 'Todd Wiggins you are an Ironman' was all I needed," Wiggins said. Competing against anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 runners, (some of whom were professionals in the sport and could complete the entire race in about nine hours) Wiggins said, for him, it was all about crossing the finish line. "It felt good and was within my goal range."
Wiggins' parents, Curt and Judy Wiggins, formerly of Mexico and currently living in Jackson, Ohio, are very proud of their son, and even traveled to New York to see him run the race. Wiggins entered the competition to raise money and awareness for the Alzheimer's Association in honor of his grandmother, Ethel Wiggins, who died from the disease.
"He played basketball and golf in high school, but he's never done anything like this before," Judy Wiggins explained about her eldest son. Wiggins, his parents, younger brother, Scott and his wife, Courtney, all traveled to New York for the race. "We had a good time watching him and we are all very proud of him."
Page 2 of 2 - Wiggins' high school golf coach, who hadn't heard the latest news about his "favorite athlete," had this to say about the former MHS Bulldog and his dedication to a cause:
"Dedicated is a good word to describe Todd. He was always very focused on his goals, had a great work ethic and always so excited and driven to do well," Coach Terry Henage recalled about Wiggins. "When he was in school we would go out before school and hit golf balls for hours, and then talk and watch the sun come up. Then, he would go to school and have breakfast, go to his classes and then practice after school again. That's how dedicated he was. A student has to want to do this on their own.
"I could go on with a lot more praise. He was one of my favorites and I'm proud of him."
Henage retired from coaching at MHS in 1999. He taught physical education at the junior high 25 years. At age 10, Wiggins was part of the middle school program when they started the basketball program and Henage watched him play all the way up through high school.
"If there is something I want to do or that I'm interested in, I know to give it everything. I think it's who I am," Wiggins said, noting that he and Henage spent a lot of time together in his years of growing up. "He is a very kind man."
Wiggins said he would like to do more races. He plans to do at least one or two Ironman Triathlons every year and a couple smaller races. The runs, he said, motivate him to work out and keep conditioned. His dream one day is to do a triathlon with his brother Scott. Until then, he plans to keep running.
The Ironman race was created in Hawaii in 1978. Since then, World Triathlon and other organizations have created races in distances ranging from 8 miles, or super sprint, to 70.3 miles, or a half Ironman. In the decade after triathlon first appeared in the Olympics in 2000, membership of USA Triathlon soared to 135,000 from 20,000, according to the sport's governing body in the U.S. The New York race was staged in partnership with Korff Enterprises, which operates the Nautica NYC Triathlon at the Olympic distance of 31.9 miles.