Damon Folkman headed to Ms. Cook’s classroom for his seventh-hour study hall.
He found a spot at one of the computers and used the time during the Firth High School day to learn. He wasn’t improving his math skills or researching American history. The senior’s YouTube search results were educational tutorials on jumping and class was in session.
Folkman was a star jumper on the Cougars’ track and field team, but did not have a jumping coach. Folkman relied on the video-sharing website to give him workout ideas after former Firth track and field coach Stewart Portella left the team after the 2014 season. Portella was the last coach to instruct Folkman, and when Portella departed, he told the then-freshman to use the unconventional instruction to hone his triple jump, long jump and high jump skills.
The free education and countless clicks helped Folkman rise to the top of Idaho’s track and field scene. The Firth graduate ended his final prep season at the 2A state tournament in May, with first-place finishes in the high jump and long jump, to go along with a second-place finish in the triple jump. Folkman is the Idaho State Journal All-Area Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
“No one helped me on jumps,” Folkman said. “I just worked on marks or went to the weight room. I wasn’t practicing with the team. ... I did my own thing.”
Folkman defended his 2016 state titles in the high jump and long jump, but came up short in his quest for back-to-back triple jump crowns. Folkman capped his Firth track and field career with five first-place medals and two second-place finishes at state.
The Firth graduate owns the school record in his three jumping events, but Folkman’s impact was larger than the 2A level. His 6-foot, 8-inch mark in the high jump at May’s 2A District 6 meet is tied for the top score this season in all of Idaho’s classifications, while his 23-foot, 9-inch long jump at districts is the second-best 2017 score in all of Idaho’s classifications.
“(Senior year) was good, but I was still disappointed,” Folkman said. “I could have done better. I didn’t jump to my potential, but I’m happy with where I ended up.”
Folkman’s rise to the top of Idaho track and field began with fruitless battles against his uncle, Dallan Bingham.
Bingham, a 2015 Cougar graduate, competed against Folkman in the high jump and long jump for two years. In 2014, when Folkman was a freshman and Bingham was a junior, the pair faced each other nine times in the high jump, with Bingham tallying the better score eight times. When Folkman scored a season-best jump of 5 feet, 10 inches at the Firth track meet, Bingham one-upped his nephew at the meet with a 6-foot jump, a season-best mark.
In long jump that season, Folkman got the best of Bingham twice in five head-to-head matchups. Those wins helped set the stage for a coup d’état, as Folkman stole the family’s crown as a sophomore.
The second-year jumper got the best of his uncle three times in six tries in the high jump, with the pair tying in the other three, including both earning a fifth-place finish at state. In the long jump, Folkman bested Bingham all four tries.
“All I wanted to do was beat him,” Folkman said. “He is two grades older than me. He was beating me every week. Then sophomore year, I started beating him and I kept going. He was so good and I wanted to be like him. He was my idol.”
Bingham also helped shape Folkman’s three-year varsity basketball career, as the two played one-on-one when they were not at the high school practicing with the team. Their matchups were rough, as Folkman and Bingham held nothing back. When Folkman was 12 years old, he gave Bingham his first bloody nose, but Bingham retaliated and knocked out Folkman’s front tooth.
“It got competitive,” Folkman said. “We would play basketball outside for five, six hours until we couldn’t walk or our shins were killing us from the concrete. Then we would sit out there under the lights until we were made to come in.”
Whether it was with on the track and hardwood with Bingham or at the snow cone shop with his football teammates after practice, Folkman created innumerable memories while at Firth. The trips with the football team to Buffalo Wild Wings for boneless wing Thursdays are a thing of the past because it’s time for Folkman to jump toward a new journey.
The former Cougar is off to Boise State in the fall as a walk-on for the track and field team. The Firth graduate had a scholarship offer from Idaho State and interest from other Big Sky Conference schools, but chose to receive teaching from the Broncos’ staff, which Folkman hopes unlocks his abilities.
“I don’t know my potential yet,” Folkman said. “I haven’t seen it.”