The Hoffman Estates girls track and field program is going to have a big hole to fill next season.
Hawks throws coach Keith Peak ended a pretty special run at the girls Class 3A state meet in mid-May.
Peak has been a big part of the Hoffman program, either as the head coach or as an assistant, for 29 years. And the Class 3A state meet provided a nice landing spot for the long time Hawks mentor.
Peak directed Hoffman Estates' girls track and field program from 1989-2003, and he definitely left quite an impression -- specifically on the throws, which he has coached for the past 28 years, including the last 14 years as an assistant.
He has helped 13 individuals qualify to the state meet and had three individuals combine for 12 state medals in either the shot put or discus.
Since 1994 he has either had an individual qualify in the shot put or discus in 21 of 24 years, including ending his coaching career with 14 consecutive state qualifiers.
"It's been very cool," said Peak of his extended run. "But I have also had very nice kids to work with."
Hoffman Estates' Makiyha Blackwell was his final state qualifier; she ended up missing the cut for Saturday's finals by two spots. But Peak left quite an impression on the Hawks sophomore.
"He definitely knows what he is talking about," said Blackwell, "I'm definitely going to miss him and he has been a big influence."
Peak graduated from Burbank's Reavis High School in 1978. He competed in football and wrestling and also threw shot and discus for boys track.
He graduated from Northern Illinois in 1983 before starting a five-year stint at Oak Forest High School, where he taught math and coached football, wrestling and track.
Peak found his home at Hoffman Estates in 1988, becoming a fixture in the math department and taking over the girls track program in 1989.
Peak left his biggest mark with the Hawks throwers.
Sam Serrano, a 1998 Hoffman grad, was a four-time state qualifier and earned three state medals before becoming an All-American at Illinois State in the weight throw in 2000.
Serrano has been the Conant girls throws coach since 2002 and credits Peak for playing a big role in her life.
"The most important thing he gave not only to me but to all the girls he coached was his philosophy on how to handle life," said Serrano of Peak's influence. "A lot of girls came from very different backgrounds and he always found a way to keep our minds straight and to be positive. He definitely helped me navigate through some difficult situations, not only in high school, but through college and beyond.
"He has just been an incredible part of my life."
In 2011, Precious Ogunleye earned four state medals, including a fourth-place finish in the shot put and third-place finish in the discus, to spur the Hawks' third-place state trophy run.
Banke Oginni, a 2014 Hoffman Estates grad, kept it going by securing five state medals before continuing her throwing career at Wisconsin, where she's currently on the track and field team.
"I refer to him as an angel sent from above," said Oginni. "I remember going into his office every morning and working on math homework, and during track meets we'd talk about school and life and he'd tell me about his journey in life and teaching.
"He has helped me and my family and I cannot be more grateful for our paths crossing."
As an assistant coach, Peak has provided support and guidance to the head coach, including Dan Anderson, who guided the program from 2006-2015, and current coach Kirk Macnider.
"He is just a rock," said Anderson. "Always has qualifiers, and his kids are always on their game. He gets a lot of kids to levels they would have never gotten to on their own. He has developed student-athletes, year after year … it is going to be huge shoes to fill."
The soft-spoken coach was definitely a presence around the throwing ring whether he was instructing his own athletes or encouraging and sharing information with opposing team coaches and athletes.
"Yeah I'm going to miss it," Peak said. "The experience and memories, and most of all working with the kids."