2018-19 Signal Sports Awards: Male Athlete of the Year

Kai Wingo was named the Signal's 2018-19 Male Athlete of the Year. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

Standing out in the sport of track and field in the ultra-competitive Foothill League can be difficult. The league is stacked with talent in all areas, from sprinters to long-distance runners to throwers and jumpers.

Then there are the middle-distance runners, who are in a league of their own.

Kai Wingo, who just wrapped up his high school career at Valencia, was the leader of the pack in the boys 800-meter race all year but flew under the radar at the start of the season. 

“I had really low confidence at the beginning of the season, I didn’t really have that much recognition because around me there’s Solomon (Strader) and Antonio (Abrego),” Wingo said. “I would just not get that much recognition, but I just kept on putting in the work and just always looked on the bright side. I think that’s what really gave me the recognition, it definitely made the season amazing.”

The accolades started to roll in for Wingo, as winning race after race became the norm. He placed first in 10 out of the 15 800-meter events he competed in this past season, including wins at major meets like the Maurice Greene Invitational, the Arcadia Invitational and the Mt. SAC Relays.

As Wingo inched closer to the end of the season, he started getting faster.

The UCLA signee won the league title with a time of 1 minute and 52.25 seconds. Two weeks later, he won the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 title with a time of 1:52.08.

After coming in first place at the CIF-SS Masters Meet, he finished in 10th place at the prelims of the CIF State Track and Field Championships, qualifying for the finals the next day.

He saved his best race for last, setting a personal record of 1:51.71 in the final race of the season, and emerged as the 800-meter state champion. 

“It’s really nice to have an accomplishment that I can talk about for the rest of my life,” he said after winning the state title. “Now whenever they look up last year’s winner, it’ll say Kai Wingo.”

Before Wingo starts his college career at UCLA this fall, there’s one more honor to add to his collection, as he earned the Signal Sports Award for Male Athlete of the Year. 

Wingo set the stage for his successful senior campaign way before the start of the season through his hard work and dedication to training. 

“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,” Valencia assistant coach Joey Tureaud said before the State Meet. “I’ve never had anybody not complain about a workout ever, not once. He’s 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.”

With the season over, Wingo decided to give himself a little break this summer as he prepares for a rigorous academic and athletic career at UCLA. 

He’s traveling to Japan this month, where he lived from the age of 10 until his sophomore year of high school, to visit family and friends. Then in August, it’s back to the grind. 

While Wingo has already started preparing for the competition at the college level by studying NCAA and professional runners, he’s mostly looking forward to being on campus every day and expanding his horizons. 

“Living in the dorm for a year sounds like a dream come true for me,” he said. “Meeting new people and especially just being at the amazing, beautiful campus every day and trying to challenge myself athletically, academically and social-wise, that’s what I’m really looking forward to.”

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