Faster, higher, scarier … Folts has challenged them all

“Thank you for challenging the Viper, and enjoy your day at Six Flags.”

John Folts has heard that recorded message … or one just like it … more than 100 times.

Since he was a young boy, Folts liked watching things move … especially things that moved fast. Like roller coasters.

“I liked to watch things move and see how they worked,” said Benet’s 6-foot-3 outside hitter. “One the first video games I got was a roller coaster designing game. I feel like that helped fuel my passion.”

As Folts got older, he watched television programs about amusement parks and roller coasters.

“I thought roller coasters were cool,” he said. “I liked to watch them work, but I wasn’t tall enough to go on them. Once I was tall enough, I really loved it. I love the thrill. It was something you really can’t find anywhere else.”

Folts’ first roller coaster experience was at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

“It was Goofy’s Barnstormer,” he said. “My family would go to Disney World every year. I wasn’t tall enough to ride roller coasters the first couple of years we went. Then I didn’t know if I wanted to. But I said, ‘Why not?’ I really enjoyed it. It has gone up from there.”

Since that first experience, Folts has challenged more than 115 different roller coasters across the country, from California to New York with stops at Ohio and New Jersey in between. 

“Wherever my family goes for vacation, I always try to find an amusement park nearby,” he said.

His favorite roller coasters include Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, a park that features 18 world-class roller coasters, and El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, home to Kingda Ka, at 456-feet and with a maximum speed of 128 miles per hour the tallest and second-fastest roller coaster in the world.

He did not have to travel far, however, to find his least favorite ride.

“Iron Wolf at Six Flags Great America (in Gurnee, Illinois),” Folts said. “It’s not there anymore. I think it’s been moved to Six Flags America (in Woodmore, Maryland). I believe it’s called Apocalypse now. It just hurt.”

But it did not hurt as much as Benet’s recent losses in the regional semifinals – 25-23, 29-27 to Plainfield North in 2017 and 25-19, 24-26, 25-17 to Neuqua Valley in 2016.

“They hurt because you’re not able to play again for the rest of the season,” the third-year varsity veteran said. “You have to wait another nine months to play for your high school.”

Folts began playing volleyball at St. Petronille School in Glen Ellyn, where his teammates included Glenbard West’s 6-7 outside hitter Stone Metz. 

“Pretty much every guy played in fifth grade,” said Folts, who played club at Sports Performance with Glenbard West’s 6-10 JT Ardell before moving to Breaker Volleyball Club (formerly Naperville Volleyball Club) during his sophomore year.

“I decided I wanted to play,” he added. “I really liked it. Both of my seasons on the varsity at Benet have been incredibly fun. We all have fun together and we’ve been pretty good throughout the years. Winning is fun.”

Folts has been the fuel driving Benet’s success. As a junior, he had 250 kills, 14 aces, 15 blocks and 77 digs to lead the Redwings to a 25-11 record including a 7-1 mark in the rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference.

“John is a huge leader on the court,” Benet coach Jeff Steinberg said. “He’s always making sure that everyone is focused on the same goal. He brings people up when they make errors on the court. He brings a lot of energy when he makes big plays. He gets everyone excited.

“His volleyball IQ is very high,” the coach added. “He’s seen a lot. And with it being his third year on the varsity, he’s gotten to work with other players and has an idea how other people have led the team. That’s helped him lead these guys.”

Next year, Folts will forego volleyball and pursue academics at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, where his older sister, Jacquelyn, a National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist and former softball standout at Benet, is currently a student.

“My cousin went there when I was 9 or 10 years old,” he said. “I just started rooting for the Fighting Irish. It was like, ‘Yeah, I could see myself going there.’ Of all the schools I visited, it’s the one I loved the most.

“Academically, it ranks very high,” added Folts, who scored a 35 on his ACT and thinks he might have received one “B” at Benet to mar what has been an otherwise unblemished record. “It will help me take the next step in the future.”

But before he embarks on his college career, however, Folts has some goals to achieve on the volleyball court.

“I want to win,” he said. “I don’t know how good the teams in our sectional are, but I’d like to win the sectional and win state. It will be tough. I don’t know how good everyone else will be, but I want to win state.”

Winning state …  another roller coaster Folts plans to conquer.

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