Montalvo pitches in as St. Anthony’s interim AD

Trojans baseball coach sees role as temporary; track schedule submitted


KAHULUI — Lionel Montalvo is enjoying his current job as interim athletic director for St. Anthony High School, but he hopes to be able to leave it in the next few months.

Montalvo is also the school’s baseball coach and he feels the job of athletic director is a full-time commitment. Track and field, the sport the St. Anthony AD is traditionally the coordinator of for the Maui Interscholastic League, runs in the spring, as does baseball.

Montalvo took over after Brian Millar stepped down from the AD position over the summer. Montalvo became assistant AD when he came back to coach the baseball team five years ago.

“Brian and I, we talked and we hit it off right away,” Montalvo said.

“I could see the frustration that he was having in dealing with the MIL and kind of the ‘old boys’ network, him being from the outside. I’m familiar with most of the athletic directors being a coach in the MIL for a number of years at different schools, so I felt that I could help him.

“There were a couple occasions that I kind of filled in, went to some meetings, kind of bridged the gap of communication. So since then I’ve been helping him.”

When the COVID-19 situation worsened, Millar made the tough decision to stay on the Mainland after returning there for his regular summer job as a lifeguard in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Montalvo is a 1978 graduate of St. Anthony who retired as deputy chief of the Maui Fire Department in 2018. When Millar stepped away, Montalvo approached SAS head of school Tim Cullen.

“I knew how important the athletic director position is and how St. Anthony struggles with sports to begin with,” Montalvo said. “I didn’t want to fall behind with the MIL and I didn’t want to neglect the duties of the athletic director, so I approached Mr. Cullen and let him know that I would fill in and keep everything kind of afloat. I didn’t want to neglect any of the other athletic directors because we do need their help and everyone has been more than helpful.”

Montalvo has been offered the job full-time, but he is still hopeful that someone who can dedicate more time to the job will emerge.

“I keep the term ‘interim’ because as the baseball coach I hesitate to take the position,” he said. “St. Anthony has traditionally been the coordinator of track — track and baseball take place at the same time, so that would make that position really difficult. I don’t want to give up my position as the baseball coach, that’s my priority.”

Montalvo said high school enrollment at St. Anthony is on the upswing after it had dipped below 100 the last few years. The school is in session on campus and has an intramural program in place where high school and middle school students participate together.

“It’s been highly successful — the idea is to have the middle school kids mix with the high school kids,” Montalvo said. “We want to keep the family atmosphere and tradition, so we have the high school kids coaching and officiating the younger kids. So, they’re working and playing together. The focus is to hopefully keep more of our middle schoolers in to high school.”

The school has longterm goals of an on-campus athletic center and a possible return to eight-player football, but Montalvo is currently focused on keeping what it currently has on the sports front. The mission began for Montalvo when he returned as baseball coach five years ago.

“I came back and said, ‘We’re not folding our basketball team, we’re not getting rid of our baseball team, we’re not getting rid of our track team,’ “ he said. “Football unfortunately is a tough sport. We’ve been trying to survive with the eight-man football league, they tried to survive combining with the Pac-3, so there’s been attempts. It’s going to be hard to bring football back, but of course, that’s always a goal to work towards.

“But we don’t want to lose the sports we have. The goal is to become competitive in what we do, not just go out there and just play.”

The baseball team is a perfect example of the competitive aspect. The Trojans, with the most experience they had enjoyed since Montalvo’s return, were poised for an intriguing run in 2020 before the pandemic wiped out the season. In 2019, they had the winning run on second base in the final inning of a loss to league power Molokai.

“We were really looking forward to that season,” Montalvo said.

In his interim role, Montalvo has helped oversee improvements to the school’s athletic facilities, including the weight room, the baseball batting cage, and track and field facilities.

He also submitted a tentative 2021 MIL track and field schedule to MIL Executive Director Joe Balangitao on Friday.

Montalvo said winter and spring sports coordinators for the league all turned in schedules last week so Balangitao could go over them and then submit them to Maui County officials by a Monday afternoon deadline to start the permit process.

It is an effort to be ready as soon as possible to start sports once approval and protocols are released by the state Department of Education and Department of Health.

Montalvo said the track and field schedule he turned in is similar to most seasons.

“The names of the meets may have to change, we may not be able to run the invitationals,” he said. “We’ll see when the time comes when we have got to adjust. We want to keep as many meets as we can.”

The idea of turning in the schedules was simple, Montalvo said.

“So we can hit the ground running,” he said. “Everything is based on the DOE and DOH. We’re at the mercy of the school principals and how they open up, everything goes back to the teachers union. Of course, we want to keep the teachers safe. … Everything is intertwined.”

The MIL is in a unique situation with rural schools in Hana, Lanai and Molokai. Mixing private and public schools further complicates the whole situation.

“It would be nice if the state, the Department of Health would come out with some rules that would allow some leeway with some of those things,” Montalvo said. “Our (MIL) situation, I wouldn’t say it makes it more complicated, it makes it unique. We definitely don’t want to change the way we’re doing things — we don’t want to separate private schools from public schools because of the uniqueness that it brings.

“As private schools we are able to get a lot more stuff done. We would be able to do a lot more, but we are at the mercy of the Department of Education … we’re under the Department of Health. We come under the state, which has so many levels of bureaucracy. It is what it is — we’re willing to deal with it.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.


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