Monmouth College graduate Payton Holmes '17 pops the question to current student Aleeka Gentzler '20 at the conclusion of a Feb. 15 Fighting Scots track meet

Listen to this article

MONMOUTH– The last thing that Fighting Scots senior

Aleeka Gentzler of Paxton, expected was that her track coach, Roger

Haynes, was in on a secret.

That secret turned out to be a marriage proposal from 2017 Monmouth

graduate Payton Holmes.

Holmes popped the question at the end of last Saturday's Fighting Scots

Indoor Track and Field Invitational in the Huff Athletic Center,

proposing to his sweetheart the day after Valentine's Day.

"We were wrapping up our team meeting that we have at the end of every

meet, and Coach Haynes said, 'I think we just have one more picture to

do,'" said Gentzler. "And then it happened."

"It" was Holmes dropping to one knee and presenting his girlfriend of

three years with a diamond engagement ring.

"He'd been joking about it for a while," said Gentzler. "He'd say things

like, 'Oh, you need to make sure your nails are done.' But I didn't

think he'd do it at a track meet, and I didn't think that Coach Haynes

would be in on it."

But the venue made perfect sense. Gentzler met Holmes when she was a

high school senior and Holmes was a Fighting Scots teammate of Aleeka's

brother, Vaughn Gentzler '18. For the 2017 season, Holmes - who is from

Aledo, Ill. - and Aleeka were teammates. They began dating in February

of that year.

"I was really happy," said Gentzler of her immediate reaction. "I was just

excited because the track team means a lot to both of us. It's how we met,

and we spent a lot of time together through track."

Monmouth track wasn't the only "family" present to witness the big

event, as many members of the engaged couple's real family were on hand,


"My mom, sister, godmother, grandma and grandpa, my dad, his wife and my

stepsister were all at the meet," said Gentzler. "So were Payton's mom and

dad, along with his sister and her three kids. My brother, uncle and other

grandparents FaceTimed in to see it happen."

Holmes is in his third and final year of study at Palmer College of

Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. An educational studies major, Gentzler

has already completed her student-teaching assignment in the West

Central school district.

"We don't have a date yet," said Gentzler. "We're going to wait until I

finish school first."