The journey Josh Wiggins ’21 took to get to this point began with elation, followed by a crushing blow.
Wiggins was an alternate in 2020 for the NCAA DIII Indoor Track and Field Championships. He was shopping on a Wednesday morning when he got a call from his coach, Clyde Morgan telling him the news: A runner had to scratch in the 60-meter hurdles.
“You’re in,” Morgan said. “We’re getting you on a plane.”
Later that day, Wiggins was en route to Charleston, S.C. After his flight and practice, Wiggins, Morgan, and RaShawn Jones ’20 were walking into the hotel lobby when they got the news that the championship meet had been cancelled. Wiggins wouldn’t compete again for nearly a calendar year. Jones, one of Wiggins’ best friends, would never compete again. His career had been cut short.
“I knew when things settled down, it was really going to hit Josh,” Morgan said. “His first time making it, it’s like hanging a carrot out there, and then it gets pulled on him.”
On Friday, Wiggins will be on the national stage once again. He will compete in the 110-meter hurdles prelims, for a chance to compete in the finals.
Morgan says Wiggins’ work ethic is one of the things that sets him apart. When he came to Wabash from Evansville as a freshman in the fall of 2017, he had plenty of raw talent. But turning that speed into title-contending ability took time and effort. Morgan found himself having to tell Wiggins something that seems unorthodox coming from a track coach: “Slow down.”
“We really had to slow down and get the proper technique together,” Morgan said. “Then he really started to click his junior year. We knew he could compete on a national level."
Morgan has been coaching for more than two decades, and says that Wiggins “would be on my Mount Rushmore of hard workers.”
“He works his butt off and leads by example,” Morgan said. “He’s the type of guy that would put the team on his back.”
When Wiggins toes the line and waits for the starting gun to sound, it will be against the backdrop of a journey filled with hurdles — getting to a level where he could compete on the national stage, grappling with the loss of an opportunity to do so, navigating an early-season injury this year, and then putting himself in a position to compete one more time.
“Coach taught me to not always focus on winning, because there are some big dogs out there,” Wiggins said. “If you're just competing to win, you won't focus on the bigger, more important picture. I feel super blessed that I got to where I am today and to just get another chance to do what I love.”