LCHS sophomore Wipfli in candidate pool for Sports Illustrated’s ‘Sports Kid of the Year’

La Cañada High School sophomore Ray Wipfli poses and dives in an Oct. 24 photo shoot at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, where he practices. The 15-year-old is one of five finalists in Sports Illustrated Kids magazine's "Sports Kid of the Year" award.
(Courtesy of Ralph Wipfli)

La Cañada High School sophomore Ray Wipfli has been up to a lot in the past five years.

When he was 11, the soccer enthusiast helped create Ray United FC, a nonprofit that’s raised more than $200,000 to build soccer camps in Uganda. The camps double as education and resource distribution hubs for thousands of children and families in need.

Wipfli began competitive diving at about the same time and has qualified for Junior Olympic nationals the last three years. As a freshman, he became the 2018 CIF Southern Division 2 champion.

Last year, he was awarded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes — a scholarship award that celebrates North American youth who’ve made a significant difference to people and the environment.

And despite the now 15-year-old’s tendency toward shyness when it comes to discussing his personal achievements, the hits keep coming.

Wipfli learned last month he’d been selected by Sports Illustrated Kids magazine as one of five finalists for its “Sports Kid of the Year” award. The national title highlights young athletes for their sports accomplishments as well as their contributions off the playing field.

The teen had an Oct. 24 photo shoot with a Sports Illustrated photographer at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, where he practices diving (although he competes for La Cañada High School, the pool there is not equipped for the sport).

“They said come ready to compete,” mom Heather Wipfli said of the shoot, “And we’re like, ‘That’s just a tiny little Speedo.’”

So Ray Wipfli changed out of the full formal tuxedo he’d worn for an earlier choral performance and donned the swimsuit in a series of dives that were more about the grin than a win.

“They didn’t want me to do normal dives. I had to stand sideways on the board and then jump sideways,” he said. “I was not expecting that.”

The teen called the athletic accomplishments of the four other finalists — champions in swimming, baseball, bicycling and surfing — much greater than his own. But those who work with him think otherwise.

La Cañada High diving Coach Art Lopez said he’s impressed with Wipfli’s aptitude both in and out of the pool. Despite his involvement with academics and the choral program, the teen still manages to practice diving and weight training about 17 hours a week.

“He’s a phenomenal kid all around,” Lopez said. “I can see him going far, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this young man.”

The Sports Illustrated Kids “Sports Kid of the Year” will be featured on the cover of the December issue, with a spread of the winner and finalists inside. The individual selected will also win a trip to New York City to be honored in a Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year ceremony.

Twitter: @SaraCardine