Wonder Woman: Track Athlete and Island Lover

Saara Nicole Chadwick, Features

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The scent of pastries wafting aromatically, early morning starts, and the local heat beating sweat down Cynthia Monteleone’s back.

Monteleone set her collegiate track spikes aside over twenty years ago at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). She then pursued a savory baking and designing career with her husband, Zane, using strictly organic and non-gluten products. The couple founded Maui Sugar Shop Bakery, a warm pastry shop nestled in the neck of Old Lahaina Center on 878 Front Street. The bakery was perfect for after-school treats.  

Monteleone describes Maui as a “place with magic.” 

The splashing of waves, infamously swaying palm trees, and Hawaii’s rich culture attracts eyes internationally.

Cynthia Monteleone caught in mid-flight on the track. Photo used with permission by J. Anthony Martinez 2020.

On casual beach strolls, honu can be seen peeking their round heads from the water for air. With fun family beach breaks and mornings sipping coffee on the shore, Monteleone has seen her fair share of the friendly sea turtles. Attractions such as the Whale Lookout Point in Wailuku also draw tourists during the mating season. The massive backs of humpback whales forcibly roll away calm waves, leaving onlookers awed. However, Maui’s best characteristic is its people, each person radiating the kind-hearted aloha they’re known for.

Monteleone says she “fell in love with the spirit of the island.”

She has never felt more at home than when in Maui.

Bliss even continued when Monteleone and her husband’s bakeshop closed.

A former passion in track left tucked away in North Carolina, booked a plane ticket to Hawaii and retraced its steps back to Monteleone. She then turned from baking to competing as a Masters Track and Field athlete. 

“My daughter Margaret, who is now 14, inspired me to start running again,” she said. “She asked me to train her to run the 400 because she wanted to run track in college ‘like mom did.’ If it were not for her, I would not have started running again.”

The mother and daughter duo help each other.

“She’s always told me stories about how she ran in college and I always thought maybe I should do track,” Margaret Monteleone told WWAY, a television station in Wilmington, North Carolina. “She kind of inspired me to do track, and she says I’m the one that inspired her — which is kind of funny.”

Cynthia Monteleone pushes herself through body-melting workouts but enjoys every bit. She practices her race plan, spikes thumping against the hot track, and enters another zone. The clothes on her back may drench with sweat, but pushing through obstacles empowers her. 

Her zeal and work ethic matches her signature Wonder Woman uniform, inspired by a nickname from her son. Since then, the endearment stuck.

Her kids sometimes trail after her on the field — small but speedy, and literally following her footsteps.

“… They run after me asking me questions: ‘mom, mom, mom, mom, mom’ as I’m running really hard intervals!” Monteleone voices. “I have to stay focused.”

She describes track’s burn as meditative. When focused, exhaustion is pushed aside to reach her goals. Her resilient efforts prove worth it when she competes in Masters World and National competitions for Team USA.

Monteleone’s endeavors set national records in 2018 for the 4 x 200, 4 x 100, and 4 x 400 meter relay competitions. She is a 2018 4 x 400 meter relay World Gold Medal Champion with three other members of Team USA, and a 2019 World and National Champion.

“I saw her training and knew she could go for the American record,” Rudy Huber, Monteleone’s coach, told The Maui News. “I believe she can do it.”

Monteleone and Coach Huber work hard to beat the National Masters outdoor record of 56.90 seconds — half a second from Monteleone’s best. 

“We are focused on the process of executing that plan,” Monteleone explains. “This is important as an athlete not to focus on the result but to stick to the plan in a positive manner.”

Cynthia Monteleone trains with Coach Huber at Satoki Yamamoto Stadium in Wailuku, Maui. Once a year, the two exercise surrounded by the tranquility of nature in Iao Valley. Against the valley’s frigid stream, they do full-body workouts like squatting with rocks over their heads and running up and down valley steps.

Monteleone talks about her next competition, an outdoor meet at her alma mater, UNCW.

“I love being back on that track,” Monteleone states. “I am working extremely hard training right now to execute my best race.”

You can support Monteleone, a local Wonder Woman on the track, and her journey on her professional website: cmmonteleone.com.