While reaching out to find some of the greatest athletes, stories or moments throughout Wharton County’s history. My quest came across the legend of El Campo’s Gaynard Wiggington.
As the story goes, Wiggington, who was once the fastest man in El Campo, decided to test his speed against a horse on foot and won.
Is this wild story a legend and part of the lore of El Campo’s past or could it actually be true?
The answer is it’s a little of both.
In 1954, Wiggington did race a quarter horse in the 100-yard dash, but lost by a tenth of a second.
Throughout his high school career with the Ricebirds, Wiggington was the fastest athlete in the 100-yard dash. During his senior year, a student, Dan Gieselhart, came out to the track on horseback while practice was going on. According to Wiggington, Ricebird track coach Floyd Elkins thought it would be a good idea for the two to race.
Elkins with a stopwatch took position 100-yards away, the two lined up and were off to the races.
Most people remember Wiggington winning, even his grandson had recalled him winning. He turned in a quick 10.01, while the horse beat out Winnington running the race in 10 flat.
“I believe the story is, the horse won by a nose,” Wiggington said last week reminiscing his run. “Of course, that horse had a longer nose then I did... I beat that horse in the first 50-yards pretty good. I could hear those hoofbeats coming up behind me and I was worried he was going to run me over. Which made me run faster because I came up pretty close at the finish line.”
Wiggington’s run of 10.01 that day, would have made him the state 4A champion in 2019. The winner from Stafford ran a 10.34.
Outside of track, Wiggington played football and at 165 pounds, he was the Ricebirds nose guard his junior season. As a senior, he was the Ricebirds’ lead ball carrier in El Campo’s new single-wing formation.
“It’s funny to me because (no one remembers me playing football), everyone remembers the horse race,” Wiggington said through laughter.
Wiggington had a scholarship lined up to play football for Sam Houston, but a broken wrist kept him from it. He wound up playing for the Wharton Junior College team and in two years got his scholarship back to Sam Houston. While he ended up never playing for them, he was able to finish college.
After college he returned back to El Campo to farm, which he still does to this day.
The El Campo speedster was the regional champion in the 100-yard dash in his junior and senior season. While he made it to state in his final two years, he never placed. Along with being known for racing a quarter horse, Wiggington was also part of the El Campo relay team that won that the state title. On the relay team, Winnington started the race for the Ricebirds.
The lore of the El Campo man racing a horse is true, just remember the horse won, but only by a long nose.