When Valencia senior Kai Wingo walks through the tunnel at Buchanan High School in Clovis for the 2019 CIF State State Track and Field Championships on Saturday, he’ll have a special guest in the crowd.
Wingo, who was born and raised in the Santa Clarita Valley, moved to Japan when he was 10 years old. His mother, who still lives in Japan, will travel to the U.S. to see her son race on the biggest stage of his young career.
“She’s planning to be here on Saturday, it’s amazing. My family is always busy so they haven’t been able to come to the meets, so any family members that will be there is special for me. I don’t think they were expecting it as much until they realized that track was my potential to go to college,” Wingo said of his parents. “They’ve always been pushing me to go further and now they realize I can be an athlete that’s not just like any other athlete.
“Now I’m going to decide my school soon and they are proud of me. I’m going to keep on pursuing my track career and hopefully do something amazing in the future too.”
Wingo, who holds the best time in the 800-meter in California this year with a mark of 1 minute and 52.08 seconds, began his track and field career as a jumper and a sprinter.
In Japan, he got involved with track and field as a triple jumper and 100-meter sprinter after a brief stint playing soccer.
“I moved to Japan and lived there for six years and that’s when I met soccer. I was on the soccer team, but nobody practiced, so then I decided to go to track and field where my friends were,” Wingo said. “I moved back sophomore year and ever since then I’ve been a Valencia athlete.”
Wingo believed he would continue down the same path at Valencia, but Vikings assistant coach Joey Tureaud noticed something different about him.
Tureaud saw his potential as a 400-meter and 800-meter runner. He was floored with his incredible stamina and ability to keep up with the upperclassmen like Sam Pica, who is currently a member of the men’s track and field team at UC Santa Barbara.
“He could have kept triple jumping, he thought he was going to be a sprinter, and I said, ‘I think you’d be better off in the (400-meter), or the (800-meter),’” Tureaud said. “His endurance was incredible.”
“I came over here as a triple jumper and 100-runner,” Wingo said. “One time Joey (Tureaud) put me in the 600-meter for the Winter Qualifiers when I was a sophomore. That time I ran a 1:28 and won my heat and ever since then he thought I’d be a perfect 800-runner.”
Tureaud’s intuition was spot on, and Wingo’s hard work and dedication to the sport over the past three years has undoubtedly paid off.
In addition to holding the best time in the 800-meter in California this year, the Valencia senior came in first place in the same race at the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet last week and holds the record in the Foothill League.
“This year he’s been going full on since September or October. Ever since that point we’ve been going 100 miles an hour in all our training,” Tureaud said. “No complaints, no injuries, it’s been amazing. A lot of victories because of it.”
The commitment Wingo shows to the sport is what impresses his coaches the most. He never misses a workout, even when he’s out of town, and never gripes about the grueling practices.
“The dedication. I’ve never had anybody not complain about a workout ever, not once, Even if he’s on vacation, he’ll ask me what is the workout,” Tureaud said. “Not one complaint ever, probably the easiest person I’ve ever coached. He’s a coach’s dream and the victories along with it, it’s hand-in-hand.”
As he prepares for the state meet this weekend, Wingo has been hitting the track hard in an effort to increase his speed.
At practice on Tuesday, he ran 20 200-meter sprints in a row with only 30 seconds of rest between sets.
Wingo has narrowed down his strategy to two important factors that he believes will help him run his best time this weekend.
“For this whole season, I’ve had a mental barrier of getting out faster and picking it up through the 500-mark, so Masters was a really good spot where I realized those two points are very important for my race,” Wingo said. “Get out fast and at the 500-mark I don’t have to kill myself, but don’t die out. Those two things are really crucial, so at (state) prelims I’ll practice that and hopefully qualify for finals and at finals, execute that perfectly so I can go faster than 1:52.”
He’ll put his strategy to the test at the 2019 CIF State Track and Field Championships, which begin on Friday at Buchanan High School in Clovis. The track qualifying events start at 5 p.m. on Friday and the track finals are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.