MAROA — When he was in fourth grade, Noah Holthaus and his parents moved from Pana to Maroa.
It just so happens, Holthaus moved four houses down from Josh Jostes.
Jostes watched Holthaus grow physically and develop confidence in himself from the time he was in fourth grade, to this season — Holthaus is now a junior hurdler on the Trojans' track and field team.
Last summer, between his sophomore and junior years, Holthaus grew between two and three inches.
Those few inches were crucial to watching his times in the 110-meter high hurdles and 300-meter hurdles plummet.
Last season, Holthaus turned in a season-best of 17.11 seconds in the 110 hurdles and 47.67 in the 300 hurdles.
This year, a taller, more muscular Holthaus, has a personal best of 15.64 in the 110 hurdles and 42.37 in the high hurdles and is on the cusp of a Class 1A state track and field berth heading into Thursday's St. Joseph-Ogden Sectional.
"Honestly for hurdles, that helps a lot because height is huge in hurdles when you’re trying to get over and be fast," Holthaus said of getting taller.
In order to advance to state, competitors must finish first or second in their event, or run below the state qualifying standard — it's 15.96 in the 110 hurdles and 41.58 in the 300 hurdles.
Jostes is in his first year as track and field coach for the Trojans and has seen Holthaus put in the work that has led him to a breakout track season.
Holthaus has finished first in every offseason weight lifting competition and has turned in flawless attendance record. Because of that, Jostes said he knew Holthaus' success on the track was a matter of time.
“I expected him to have a big year in track, and now that he’s having a big year in track his confidence level is high," Jostes said. "He can run with anybody in these things.
“He expects to make state and his confidence level is very high. Hopefully that carries over into the fall and obviously next spring."
Holthaus also pole vaulted this year and has a personal best 40-feet in the triple jump — the state qualifying standard is 41-2.
There's still polishing that needs to be done to Holthaus' hurdling form, but Jostes has him running with more speed and more confidence.
“I think that Noah is better than Noah thinks," Jostes said. "That’s been a process to translate that in that he should be confident. I think he has that now. I’ve told people all along that when he rolls out this fall people are going to be like, ‘Where did this kid come from? He didn’t have a single catch last year.’ He’s always been here. His confidence level is going through the roof.
“He was a kid who was scared of his own shadow when he was a freshman. He’s not anymore."
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When he came into this track season, Holthaus didn't know where he stood.
Then he started winning, and kept winning every hurdling event until the Clinton Carnival on May 1.
He finished third there, behind Mason Barr of Colfax Ridgeview and Dalton Spencer of Stanford Olympia.
Barr won the 300 hurdles and finished fourth in the 110 hurdles at state last year.
“At first I didn’t know where I stood with everyone else competing," Holthaus said. "Last year I wasn’t getting that good of times and this year I was hoping for good times. Once I started realizing I was getting in 15s, it helped me get confident that I could compete with other people."
At the beginning of the year, Holthaus didn't plan on running the 300 hurdles, which Jostes called a "man-maker race."
But Holthaus is learning to like it, and his falling times keep him coming back.
“It’s not a fun race, to be honest," Holthaus said. "No one enjoys doing it because it’s a tough race. Once I realized I had potential and was getting better at it, I learned to like it. It does feel good afterwards."
Holthaus may have moved down the street from Jostes in fourth grade, but he really saw what the veteran football coach was about when he signed up for JFL.
There, Jostes came in and told the players what he expected of them, building the pipeline to Walter Boyd Field.
That's when Holthaus could tell Jostes meant business.
Now, he's reaping the benefits of him as coach of two sports.
“I absolutely love having him as a coach. It brings the best out of you and he really wants you to compete," Holthaus said.
Last year, Holthaus wasn't a threat to break out of sectionals. This year, he's primed to go to O'Brien Stadium in Charleston for state.
“I’m going to look back and hope I can get a better position than I was last year," Holthaus said. "I’m going to keep working for it. It doesn’t matter what you run in the regular season, you have to run that at sectionals, then you can move on to state."
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