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Costes services #039;light-hearted#039;

As the majestic theme music of the Olympic march played, friends and loved ones packed the Troy State University field house Saturday afternoon to honor Pike County's only Olympian, Nick Costes, in a memorial ceremony.

A light-hearted affair filled with humorous anecdotes about the life and times of Costes, who passed away March 15, the ceremony featured a collection of eulogies by those who knew him well.

The dress code was informal - running clothes preferred - and the speeches were upbeat and packed with historical information about the man who became Troy State's first track coach in 1957 and at one time held the American record for running the marathon: 2 hours and 18 minutes.

The ceremony was moderated by Doc Anderson, head of the Troy State athletic training department, and included fond reminiscing about the athletic and academic careers of Costes.

Don Maestri, TSU basketball coach, spoke about the development of his relationship with Costes and how it continued to evolve and grow, even as Costes' athletic abilities deteriorated and his powerful long-distance strides became a hobble.

"I didn't even know until we qualified for the NCAA tournament what a big fan of basketball he was," Maestri said. "I would stop practice whenever he would hobble by and tell the players just to look at him running in pain like that. That's commitment."

Costes was a regular feature on Troy roadsides for decades, running and riding his bike well into his 70s. He was on the cutting edge of athletic training and wrote a book on interval training that is still used to this day.

"He is the reason why we take a day off before a big game," Maestri said. "No other big name programs do that."

Sherrill Crowe knew Costes for 23 years and dressed out for workouts with him on a daily basis for decades. He spoke about the good times shared and said the informal and non-religious nature of the memorial service was appropriate.

"Nick always believed that you were born of molecules and when you died, you went back to molecules."

Over 50 friends, relatives, former runners and students filled the auditorium at the Tine Davis Field House to remember Costes, describing him as a pivotal figure in Troy State history and elevating his teams to a level that allowed TSU to compete with the best SEC track and cross-country teams in the nation.

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson@troymessenger.com.