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."