MAROA — The competitiveness that fuels Josh Jostes was bred at a young age.
Jostes, the Maroa-Forsyth football and boys track coach, was the smallest kid on his block in Macon growing up. But Macon is a small town, so by numbers alone Jostes had to play sports with kids bigger and older than him. He quickly figured out that things were more fun if he was winning.
"You have to either sink or swim at that point," Jostes said. "Competitiveness has always been a big thing for me."
There are stories about Jostes flipping a checkers board or tossing a deck of Uno cards if he lost. That burning desire to win has followed Jostes all the way through his life. It's glaringly obvious on Friday nights in the fall, and every practice. When he took over as Maroa's boys track coach last year, it followed him. Perhaps to a fault.
This year, Jostes learned how to manage that competitive drive during track season, sending nine athletes to the Class 1A state meet, finishing second in sectionals, winning the Macon County meet and finishing no worse than third all year to become the Herald & Review Macon County Boys Track Coach of the Year in just his second season at the helm.
Going into sectionals last season, Jostes put all of his chips in the middle of the table. He wanted to win — just like he wants to do in every other aspect of his life. The Trojans finished third in the sectional and sent Noah Holthaus to state in three events, along with the 4x200-meter relay team. Jostes started digging more into the art of coaching track, while talking to other coaches such as St. Teresa's girls track coach Todd Vohland. It didn't take long for Jostes to realize that there comes a time when he would need to dial back his burning desire to win everything.
Instead of picking up a point in one event that would lead to fatigue in another, Jostes put the right pieces together to get as many athletes to the state meet as possible. As it turns out, that method landed a second-place finish at sectionals this year and more state qualifiers.
“We were all in and kids were having to run three or four events," Jostes said. "We just knew we wouldn’t get as many to state as we could if we continued that. I’m still not very good at it."
Jostes couldn't completely suck the oxygen out of his competitive flame, though. The Trojans, like every other track program, never conceded a chance to win a meet until that sectional. Jostes went all in at invitationals and big meets. He treated the smaller, mid-week meets like glorified practices. Runners got a chance to try new events or get a good workout. Maroa still won all of those meets.
But the mindset changed in those smaller meets. As a rookie track coach last season — Jostes hadn't even attended a track meet for roughly 30 years prior to taking over — he shot to win every one of those small meets by any amount necessary. It was the football coach and competitive fiend in him shining bright. This season, those meets were treated as a chance for growth.
Admittedly when he took over the program last season, he envisioned four years as the coach — a timeline that lined up with his son Wade Jostes' years in high school. But Josh Jostes found passion and is starting to hit his stride. Word around the state track meet in May was clear from other area coaches and athletes: Maroa is just getting started.
And so is Jostes.
“I really enjoyed it," he said. "Honestly when I came into this, hopefully I would turn it around in four years while Wade is in school and then I’ll be ready to step down and somebody else can take over. I've got about 10 years left and I can see me doing it for 10 years."