The Valencia Vikings coaching staff never had a doubt about Kai Wingo’s ability.
“Since day one all of my coaches believed in me. It’s kind of funny, they always told me that I was going to be the state champ,” Wingo said. “The main thing that I still need to work on is that I don’t trust in myself, that’s why in most of my races I always get out the slowest. The main message throughout the season and after the season from my coaches was to trust myself and I really appreciate that.”
The coaches were right.
Wingo won the 800-meter race at the CIF State Track and Field Championships, earning the title of All-SCV Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
His time of 1 minute and 51.71 seconds set a new personal record, and he executed it on the biggest stage with his closest family in attendance.
Wingo’s mother traveled from Japan to watch her son compete for the state title, and having her in the crowd gave him the extra motivation he needed.
“It’s such a great feeling to be able to win for someone who cares for you so much,” he said. “That pushed me and I think that’s why I was able to push that last meter or two to stretch my lungs out and win the state title.”
The 800-meter was Wingo’s most successful race all season long. He took first place at the Maurice Greene Invitational on March 16, besting 40 other competitors. He finished second at the Nike Redondo Invitational out of 75 runners a week before. At the Azusa Pacific University Meet of Champions on March 23, he came in third place out of 117 total runners.
The senior took first place at the Foothill League Finals and followed it up with a first-place finish at the CIF-Southern Section Division1 Finals. He also finished in the top spot at the CIF-SS Masters Meet.
While Wingo admits he’s humbled by all the success he had this season, he’s already looking ahead to what’s next. Come this fall, he’ll be running track for the UCLA Bruins.
“Winning the state title means a lot, but right now I’m focused on next year because I’ve been watching NCAA and professional runners and just seeing them be competitive and strong,” Wingo said. “I’m just looking forward to next year rather than looking back at the season.”
Wingo will continue to run the 800-meter, but he said he might dabble with the 1,500-meter as well. As a teenager in Japan he was a 100-meter sprinter and also a triple jumper.
“Right now the 800 is my strongest race so I’m going to stick with it, and I want to stick with the four, six and eight because those are what I am strongest at,” he said. “I can see myself moving up to the 1,500. Increasing in distance might be better and easier to train for than going shorter.”
With summer fast approaching, Wingo said he’s going to take some time off to rest and regroup.
He’s also planning a trip to Japan, but then it’s back to work.
“Summer I’m not going to do any track meets, I’m sure that the coaches will send me some workouts to do,” he said. “In July I’m going back to Japan to visit my family and friends. Then August, it’s game on again.”
All-SCV Boys Track and Field Team
Antonio Abrego, Golden Valley, sophomore
Throughout the year it was a battle between Abrego and Wingo in the 800-meter. The sophomore came in second to the eventual state champion at the Foothill League Finals and then finished in second at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals. He was also an alternate at the CIF-SS Masters Meet. Abrego set a PR earlier in the year at the Azusa Pacific Distance Meet of Champions with a time of 1:53.76. He was a key member of Golden Valley’s league-winning 4×400 relay team and helped the Grizzlies go undefeated in league.
Evan Bates, West Ranch, senior
The Foothill League was stacked with great distance runners this year, and Bates was one of the best. He placed second in the Nike Redondo Invitational out of 83 runners.The Gonzaga commit finished in second place in the 3,200-meter at the Foothill League Finals, behind teammate Isaiah Seidman. Bates only got faster from that point, hitting a mark of 9:19.18 at the CIF-SS Division 1 Finals to advance to the Masters Meet. He ran even faster at Masters, finishing in fourth place with a time of 9:03.24 to advance to the State Meet. Bates saved his best for last, hitting a PR of 9:02.03 at the state competition, earning a sixth-place finish and a trip to the podium.
Tyler Cash, Canyon, junior
While Cash dabbled in the long jump, pole vault and even ran a 200-meter race, he was the clear favorite in the high jump in the Foothill League. Cash, who goes by the nickname “Skywalker,” dominated the event all season long, taking first place at the Foothill League Finals then following it up with a first-place finish at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals with a mark of 6-8. At the Masters Meet he came in sixth place, earning a trip to state. At the State Championship Prelims, Cash won a jump off to earn the 12th and final spot for the finals. He blew away the competition in the championship round, nailing his first four jumps including a PR of 6-9. He set a new PR three jumps later, clearing 6-10 to finish in second place in the state.
Ethan Danforth, Canyon, senior
Another great Foothill League distance runner, Danforth reached the State Championships in the 3,200-meter for the second year in a row. He placed fourth at the Foothill League Finals and then won the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals with a time of 9:10.50. He set a season record at the Masters Meet a week later with a time of 9:02.28. He finished in the No. 22 spot at state. The Southern Utah University commit will look to continue his stellar career with the Thunderbirds next year.
Kienan Donovan, Golden Valley, sophomore
The sophomore thrower starred in both the discus and shot put events this year. Donovan won the Foothill League crown in discus with a winning throw of 168-6 and finished second in shot put with a mark of 55-4 1/2. He took third place in discus at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals with a PR of 171-2 and finished fourth in shot put (57-7 1/4). Donovan qualified for the State Meet in both events and hit a PR of 58-2 1/2 in shot put at the Championship Prelims. In the state finals, he finished No. 7 in discus (170-5) and No. 12 in shot put (52-9 3/4).
Joe Hylton, Hart, senior
Taking a year off from the sport didn’t seem to slow down Hylton, who got faster and faster as the season progressed. The senior sprinter took home the Foothill League title in the 100-meter with a time of 10.84. At the CIF-SS Division 2 Prelims, he hit a PR of 10.72 and finished in fourth place in the Division 2 Finals. He finished in second place at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational going up against 30 other sprinters. He was also a key component on both the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams.
Jacob Lopez, Canyon, senior
Lopez’s love for the sport was clearly evident every time he stepped on the field. His fun demeanor and big smile made him a fan favorite and his skill in the throwing ring kept onlookers hooked. Lopez won the Foothill League crown in shot put with a mark of 58-5 and finished in second in discus with a throw of 162-9 1/2. He also won both events at the Nike Redondo Invitational, besting 40 other throwers. He set a PR of 177-2 1/2 in discus early in the year, winning the event at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational. The San Jose State commit finished in third in shot put and fourth in discus at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals. He advanced to the State Championships in both events and reached the podium in discus with a sixth-place finish (171-5). He finished tenth in the state in shot put (56-7 3/4)
Jeremiah Rasmussen, Hart, senior
When it came to the 1,600-meter race, it was hard to beat Rasmussen. The senior finished in second place in the Foothill League Finals and then finished third at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals with a PR of 4:13.18. He placed seventh at the Nike Redondo Invitational and also finished in fourth at the same meet in the 3,200-meter with a PR of 9:16.88. He also beat out 46 other runners and took home top honors in the 1,600-meter at the Arcadia Invitational. Rasmussen advanced to the Masters Meet where he came in 10th place with a time of 4:16.56, narrowly missing the cut for state.
Solomon Strader, West Ranch, junior
One of the most gracious and humble athletes in the sport, Strader’s competitive drive was unmatched. The focus in his eyes was apparent every time he set his feet on the starting blocks. He took home two titles at the Foothill League Finals, the 200-meter with a PR of 21.45 and the 400-meter with a time of 47.33. He finished first in the 400-meter at the Nike Redondo Invitational, ahead of 57 other runners. He came in second in the 200-meter at the CIF-SS Division 1 Finals and came in first in the 400-meter. He qualified for both races at the Masters Meet but decided to concentrate on the 400-meter, where he took home a first-place finish with a PR of 47.04. He came in third place at the State Championships with a time of 47.10 and will be the favorite to win it all next year.