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Sometimes it's all in the eyes. The great athletes, they just seem to have a sparkle in their eye when it comes time to compete.
Halley Folsom has those eyes. Focused and solely trained on what's ahead, the North Medford junior encompasses all one looks for in a track and field athlete.
It should come as no surprise, then, all that Folsom has accomplished in short order as a Black Tornado.
It should also come as no surprise that those accomplishments are merely a stepping stone for the 5-foot-9, 135-pound standout, who has visions of bigger and brighter down the road.
"I'm trying new things and shaking it up more this year because it helps me to figure out what I need to work on because I want to be a heptathlete," says Folsom, who holds two school records and is closing in on two others. "I've been trying to introduce myself to all the events in that so I can see if that's a possibility for me."
Whether the event is old or new, one thing remains the same: the 17-year-old standout simply has a knack for getting the job done.
Last year, she became the first girl in North Medford High history to capture a state title when she clocked a school-record time of 44.24 seconds in her specialty, the 300-meter intermediate hurdles. Medford split into two high schools in 1986 and the record broken that day had lasted for 20 years.
Two weeks ago at the Oregon Relays in Eugene, Folsom added her second school record, only this time in a rare outing in the 800 — which is one of seven events that makes up the heptathlon. In only her second running at that distance, Folsom cruised to a finish of 2 minutes, 18.33 seconds to break a 19-year-old school record.
That effort, mind you, was in the middle of her going 44.44 in the 300 hurdles and just missing at 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump (a mark she's hovered around since peaking at 5-5 as a freshman).
"Within 30 minutes she literally missed the school record in the intermediates by two-tenths of a second, set the record in the 800 and comes back and just misses 5-4," North Medford track and field coach Piet Voskes says of the dynamic shift through her events in Eugene. "It was unbelievable, and Oregon State coaches and a number of other colleges were just standing there watching it all."
For good measure, Folsom backed that up last weekend at the Sterling/Lithia Invitational in Klamath Falls by leaping 35-31/2 in the triple jump to finish second in school history to Ashley Chambers' 2007 mark of 36-111/2.
North Medford's record high jump mark of 5-6, set by Hayley Godfrey in 2005, is one that Folsom has achieved in practice but not quite pulled off in a meet. To be fair, each meet typically has her hopping from one event to another with little break in between.
"High jump is exciting for me right now because I feel like I'm really close to the school record so that's one I look forward to doing each time out," says Folsom, who plans on pursuing an engineering degree once she gets to college.
The high jump and 800 are two of the seven events in the heptathlon, which also includes the 200, 100 hurdles, shot put, long jump and javelin. Folsom says she gradually expects to introduce each event before her time is done at North Medford, although this year's focus is on placing at state in the 300 hurdles and high jump.
While school records are certainly welcome along the way, Folsom says that's not driving her when she's on the track.
"It mostly gives me goals to go for," she says. "Records are fun to break but it's kind of just about getting marks that are going to be good for college right now."
Given her unique combination of athleticism, focus and competitive drive, school records have seemed like a foregone conclusion since she began competing at North Medford.
"I can't think of another kid like her," says Voskes. "She's so darn competitive and yet the sweetest thing going. She's the whole package and a really, really good athlete. I imagine you could put her in the 3,000 and she would be competitive. That's just who she is and it's amazing."
"She knows that she likes a challenge and anything we can throw at her, she'll go out and do it," adds the coach. "She'd been watching the javelin and said, 'I can do that,' and goes out and throws 95 feet in one day of practice. She's just rare."
Folsom, who carries a 3.96 GPA after getting one B in chemistry, has followed a long line of family excellence in various athletic and academic arenas. The succession from Emily to Rob to Ryan to Kate has helped pave a course for Halley, and she's appreciated the life lessons and support from her siblings each step of the way.
"I think it's been a good thing," she says of following her brothers and sisters. "What they did in high school has taught me a lot about what I want to do."
Voskes says her family culture, where there's an equal emphasis on balancing work at home with that in school or on the playing field, has also created an undeniable work ethic.
"There's just a very blue-collar approach to everything she does," says Voskes. "If she could wear a hard-hat to practice I think she'd do it, and maybe eat a sack lunch every day. She's just a straight-forward, blue-collar kid who says let's compete and then when I'm done, I'm going to shake your hand and congratulate you."
It's the same on the soccer pitch, where Folsom has been a leading goal-scorer and assist-maker for the Black Tornado over the past three seasons. Given her druthers, though, Folsom says she's more inclined to pursue track and field once she gets to college.
"I'm gravitating toward track because I see more potential there," she says.
That's for good reason, especially considering how she handles herself on the track.
"I've never seen her rattled in a big meet," says Voskes. "Even as a freshman at the state meet she was just very calm and composed and finished fourth in the intermediates. She had a shot at winning it and hit a hurdle, but she was never rattled."
The hurdles appear to suit Folsom so well because of her strength, speed and natural ability to make mid-race adjustments, according to Voskes.
"She has no problem alternating legs and never panics," says the coach. "She's also just so strong mentally and physically, and that event demands and requires that."
"For Halley, a hurdle is nothing more than a simple obstacle in her way versus something I have to make this huge effort to get over," adds Voskes, summing up more than just a track event for Folsom. "She just very calmly gets over it and gets on to the next one."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry