When the Kalaheo High School student body filled the bleachers at its new field, the seemingly simple moment was actually decades in the making.
The Lee A. Cashman Athletic Field was unveiled on Wednesday morning, named after former Mustangs athletics director Lee Cashman. A full set of bleachers, a scoreboard and two football goal posts — features the school didn’t have until now — were among the upgrades seen.
“When I saw Mr. Cashman and the tears in his eyes, I know how much work he put in to this field. The school and the alumni have been trying since 1975,” Kalaheo athletics director Mark Brilhante said. “Meeting with Kaneohe Ranch in 1975 talking about clearing out the hill, getting two fields and a pool and things like that.
“The first graduating class of 1976 and a lot of the alumni, it’s a very proud day for Kalaheo to open up an athletic field that will be used by all of our students.”
The celebration also included a blessing of the field, a hula performance and ribbon cutting ceremony, among other festivities.
Cashman was Kalaheo’s athletic director when the school opened in 1972 and he held the post until retiring in 2004. As evidenced by his new namesake, he remains a central figure in the Kalaheo community.
“It took a lot of hard work. I’m overjoyed,” Cashman said. “Big honor, I wasn’t expecting it. That’s all I can say. It’s a big honor.”
Brilhante took over upon Cashman’s retirement and the two have remained close.
“He started this program. A great man. Dedicated, reliable, integrity,” Brilhante said. “I think the biggest thing I talked about with his daughter (Colleen, who is a counselor at Kalaheo) is on Sundays, she used to come here just so she could spend time with her dad.
“So you know the family part is unreal and his wife, so supportive. The hours of an AD, we all know how incredible they are.”
The initial target date to complete the project was before the 2018-2019 academic year, but multiple delays due to factors such as weather and complications installing walkways on the bleachers led to Wednesday’s unveiling instead of an earlier time.
Kalaheo football coach Darrell Poole is grateful that his team finally gets to practice on campus again. For the last three seasons, the Mustangs have been running over to either Kaha Field or Kainalu Elementary to get their reps in.
“Just the vibe of the kids being able to see the lines on the football field and the numbers, it’s just going to create a lot different atmosphere for us as a coaching staff and as a football team,” he beamed. “I think this is gonna bring back some sense of excitement, school pride. This is what’s been missing at Kalaheo for the past three years. I think it opens up the door as far as our football program with the other athletic programs, too.”
For now, there is no set date on when the Mustangs will get to host their first varsity football game.
When asked about this season, Brilhante says “probably not,” but doesn’t want to completely rule it out.
“Some of our areas need to be padded. But we’ve been practicing on it and soccer will be one of our first games,” he said. “Hoping to do so in the future. It’s going to take a village, a lot of support to get this thing ready for our football future.”
Just as the new field was a boon for Kalaheo, Poole envisions the first on-campus game as another landmark day, regardless of when that may be.
“That’s a long time coming, too. There’s a lot of people who have supported Kalaheo athletics as well as Kalaheo High School,” he said. “To have the first game sanctioned ever at Kalaheo, I think the turnout’s gonna be huge. And just the excitement for the kids here at Kalaheo.
“They’ve never had a game on their own school field and I just think it’s gonna be so exciting. To see the kids light up and have a game here, I think it’s gonna be great excitement and great pride for the kids.”
Brilhante acknowledged hosting games would be a challenge. But if the field he was standing on was any proof, it can be done.
“I’m just so thankful for the many people who put their hands in this. From the class of ‘76, all the way to the past class of 2019, they all had something to do with getting this field ready,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of work now. There’s alumni that want this, we want this, we’re going to see how far we can take it with Kalaheo Mustangs athletics.”