Famed Prospect cross country coach retires after 29 years

Stokes led boys cross country program to 11 MSL East titles

  • Participants in Friday's parade hold up a picture frame with a mural of some of the highlights of Mike Stokes' coaching career at Prospect High School. Stokes, an Arlington Heights resident, is retiring after 34 years as an educator.

      Participants in Friday's parade hold up a picture frame with a mural of some of the highlights of Mike Stokes' coaching career at Prospect High School. Stokes, an Arlington Heights resident, is retiring after 34 years as an educator. John Leusch | Staff Photographer

  • Nearly 100 cars paraded past the house of Mike Stokes, left, on Friday in Arlington Heights to celebrate his retirement. Stokes, a hall of fame track and cross country coach, stood in the driveway with his family behind him, greeting all who drove by.

      Nearly 100 cars paraded past the house of Mike Stokes, left, on Friday in Arlington Heights to celebrate his retirement. Stokes, a hall of fame track and cross country coach, stood in the driveway with his family behind him, greeting all who drove by. John Leusch | Staff Photographer

  • Prospect cross country coach Mike Stokes with son Kevin.

      Prospect cross country coach Mike Stokes with son Kevin. John Leusch | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/29/2020 8:30 PM

A hall of fame coach got a hall of fame retirement send-off on Friday afternoon in Arlington Heights.

Alumni along with current and retired teachers were part of a parade of nearly 100 cars that drove past the house of longtime Prospect High School educator Mike "Stogie" Stokes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He was inducted into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2013 and has been the head boys cross country coach for the past 29 years (11 Mid-Suburban League East titles).

He also spent 29 years with the boys track program, directing 20 3,200-meter relay teams that qualified for state.

"After 29 years, I wanted to somehow mark his last day," said his wife, Michaela, a speech language pathologist in Glenview's District 34.

"We were going to have a party but it would have been hard to maintain social distance. So I thought this would be an easy way for people to celebrate his years and his time."

And it was all a surprise.

"I was taking a nap after staying up late to do some paperwork," said Stokes, a special-education teacher. "And then my wife came in and woke me up to go outside."

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The car horns then awakened the neighborhood.

Terry Beyna, the Elk Grove High School boys athletic director, lives just three houses down.

"We've been neighbors for 10 years," Beyna said. "Mike is a very respected coach, very accomplished and extremely hard working. He has impacted many lives as an educator and coach."

Binh Huynh, a 1991 Prospect graduate and current math teacher at Buffalo Grove High School, was a sprinter and jumper for Stokes.

"I got to coach with Stogie during my early years of teaching," said Huynh, one of the many who gathered at the First United Methodist Church parking lot in Arlington Heights before heading down Stokes' street for the parade.

"He is just so knowledgeable and loved the sport. He was always supporting the kids."

It's those relationships that stood out for Stokes.

"I've been fortunate in my 34 years of teaching to be around just a lot of great people and real good friends," Stokes said. "I just think life is about relationships.

"If you really want to reach kids and families, you get to know them. They've gotten to know me and I've gotten to know them. It's just been one big, fun get-together all the time."

Just like Friday. Many in the parade presented Stokes with gifts or kind words as he stood with his wife, daughters Jenna, Tara and Shawna and son Kevin.

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