STILLWATER — Keelyn Peacock is ready for all the new experiences Arkansas State University has to offer, but the championship chase that lies ahead is something the soccer star is already quite familiar with.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the popular Stillwater senior signed her National Letter of Intent to attend the Sun Belt Conference up-and-comer that posted a 10-2-1 record this fall.
Peacock will be graduating from high school early, just before the Christmas break, and will begin her stint as a college student studying speech pathology and as a college athlete with objectives to meet in the second week of January.
“When I went on all my visits, the very first thing they asked was, “What are your goals in college?'” Peacock recalled from her recruiting process that included six Division I offers. “I said win a championship. It sounds easier than it is. It contains a lot of work.”
Peacock knows all about work and the payoff. Her efforts have led to great growth as a soccer player, and in turn, numerous individual accolades and plenty of team success. She was named to the all-state Class C first team three times, after Stillwater placed second in the 2017 state tournament and again after the Warriors won the New York title in 2018 and 2019.
“That’s why she’s going where she’s going,” Stillwater girls’ soccer coach Christine Ihnatolya said. “It’s the work when no one is looking.”
Peacock is anxious to get going with the Red Wolves, who placed second in the Sun Belt Conference tournament the last two seasons.
“I will be training, lifting and practicing in the spring with them without losing a year of eligibility,” Peacock said. “You’ve got to work your way up from the bottom.”
Arkansas State finished on top of its league in the regular season this fall, and its coach, Brian Dooley, was selected the Sun Belt Coach of the Year.
“Obviously winning that [tournament] championship is something I want,” Peacock said.
“When she gets an idea in her head, she is one of the most determined kids I’ve seen,” said Peacock’s mom, Shannon Tanner, who teaches third graders at Stillwater Elementary School. “She’ll work for it.”
Peacock will be joined by an accomplished group of college newcomers.
“With my class, almost all of them have won a state title in some kind of sport,” she said.
Peacock was hoping to get a crack at a third state championship this fall before the Warriors’ season was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
“She got all the girls together over the summer, working out and doing drills” Ihnatolya said. “I couldn’t be there, and she played the role of coach.”
Peacock’s last game as a Stillwater soccer player came just over a year ago when the Warriors beat Unatego 1-0 for the state title at SUNY Cortland and completed their second consecutive unbeaten season.
She also spent time in the fall of 2019 as a kicker on Stillwater’s Section II Class C title-winning football team, and had planned to do that again.
“At least it ended on a positive note,” Peacock said of her final high school soccer campaign.
Though Peacock served as Stillwater’s defensive stopper, she often joined the attack and as a junior collected 16 goals and 36 assists. As a sophomore she had 12 goals and 42 assists.
“On my club team [the Albany Alleycats], I play forward,” Peacock said. “They [Arkansas State] might move me to an offensive position.”
Ihnatolya said she will miss the four-year varsity player and team leader.
“She has speed and skill. She brings out the best in players. She is the whole package. She really is,” Ihnatolya said. “As a coach, you want to make an impact on a players. She definitely made an impact on me.”
Several dozen well-wishers, including family and schoolmates, were on hand for Peacock’s signing ceremony at the Arvin Hart Fire Department. Peacock is the second Stillwater soccer player in as many years to make a Division I commitment following goal-scoring sensation and 2020 June graduate Brooke Pickett (UAlbany).
“I’m actually speechless,” Peacock said. “I wasn’t expecting that many people. It’s an awesome feeling to have so many people who support me and have my back.”