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Monmouth track family in on big moment for Gentzler, Holmes

Barry McNamara
Payton Holmes '17 pops the question to Aleeka Gentzler '20 at the conclusion of a Feb. 15 Fighting Scots track meet.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – The last thing that Fighting Scots senior Aleeka Gentzler of Paxton, Ill., 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, too.

“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.”