Robbie Werchau has seen some outstanding gymnastics squads in her day. She knows when she's got a talented team on her hands, and this year's Minot High gymnasts may be some of the best.
Werchau, in her eighth year as the Majettes' coach - including a five-year stint from 1990-1995 - has led five of her seven teams to state championships. She says Minot's talent level this season is on par with the most skilled of her title winners.
"I would say it's comparable," Werchau said. "The requirements are more difficult now than they were because everything changes as time goes on. We had some standouts in the '90s and we have some standouts now."
Minot High junior Madison Reiter completes a jump on the balance beam
during practice Wednesday at Gymagic.
The Majettes opened the year by winning the Fargo Davies Invitational, the Bismarck/Century Invitational and Valley City's Holiday Classic. At 5:30 p.m. Friday, they host the Sadie Warren Memorial at Gymagic - an event named after the former Majette standout and 1995 Bishop Ryan graduate, who passed away in 2009.
"We are excited to have a home meet, the first meet since Christmas vacation," Werchau said. "I think the girls do feel a little bit of momentum. They feel pretty good about the skills they have."
At Valley City, Minot posted a season-high 145 points with sophomore Hannah Werchau, Robbie's daughter, taking home all-around honors. Junior Madison Reiter claimed the all-around title in Minot's first two competitions, the floor exercise in all three meets and the balance beam, uneven parallel bars and vault events once each.
"Floor has been my strongest," Reiter said. "Vault I'm trying to ease off because of my back - I have a stress fracture. But I'm trying to get back to everything and hopefully we can do it again this weekend."
Reiter and Werchau are each four-year veterans on a team that's no longer hampered by low roster numbers, unlike last year's five-gymnast squad.
"We do think that Hannah and Madison have a chance at the state title individually," Robbie Werchau said. "And we're excited that we do have depth. It takes four scores on each event to make a team total.
"We have a couple girls coming around on vault, on bars. It's been a couple years since we've had this much depth."
That type of depth pays dividends at the state meet, where Minot has been dominant, winning the event in 10 of the past 23 years.
The Majettes are focused on protecting their home turf Friday against Mandan and Grand Forks.
But with a team "comparable" to the greats of years past, it's hard not to think about the big stage next month in Bismarck.
"We plan on winning," Reiter said with a smile. "Hopefully."
Magnuson sidelined for 1-2 weeks
Minot High girls basketball coach Todd Magnuson will be absent from the Majettes bench for one to two weeks due to health concerns.
"He had a heart issue, but it's taken care of," Minot Athletic Director Lunde said. "He hopes to be back in a couple weeks."
The sixth-year coach was hospitalized early Sunday morning and released on Monday. He's already itching to get back to the hardwood.
"We're just going to try to keep him away for a little bit. Easier said than done," said assistant coach Joel Lawson, who is filling Magnuson's void for the time being. "He wants to come back, but for medical reasons it's safer to be away for a little while."
Lawson said he and assistants Jeffrey Beck and Steve Dangel - who have all been on Magnuson's staff for six years - plan to coach by committee.
"We're not going to do any major changes or anything like that," Lawson said. "We're just gonna continue what's been done."
The Majettes (4-3 overall, 2-2 West Region) travel to Mandan on Friday.
Wrestling set to host top-ranked foe
With a team like No. 1 Bismarck High coming to town, the most difficult preparation is mental, not physical, Minot High wrestling coach Nolan Spooner said.
"We gotta get over that hurdle mentally before we can prepare for battle Thursday," he said. "With this young team, we've gotta control the pace of the matches. We can't let 'em get on a roll. If they get on a roll, it's not going to end up the way we want it to."
The Magicians (5-5 overall, 3-2 West Region) host Bismarck at 7:30 tonight - as tough a challenge as they'll face all year.
The Demons (2-0, 2-0), ranked in the top 50 nationally as recent as last week, boast three of the state's top-ranked wrestlers, including senior standout Ryan Blees.
Blees, who went 50-0 last year en route to state and Junior Nationals titles, is listed by FloWrestling.org as the country's best grappler at 160 pounds and the sixth-best pound-for-pound wrestler. The Oklahoma State recruit has won 102 consecutive matches.
"It's a hard match," Minot freshman Tyler Strandberg said. "You gotta tough it out. You might lose, but it's just a matter of staying in it and staying tough and going the full six minutes."
Spooner said he's preached "making it a six-minute match" to his team all week.
"We've gotta wrestle for six minutes," he said. "Otherwise it's hard as a coaching staff to put a game plan against that group or that person next time we see them."
Minot freshman Matthew Rabe said, just as in any sport, watching film is crucial for a team's progression. Spooner hopes all 14 classes last long enough to make film review of the match worthwhile.
"You learn way more from getting your butt kicked than you do kicking anybody's butt," Spooner said.
Magicians home for dual meet
The Minot High boys swimming and diving team hosts Jamestown at 2 p.m. Saturday in its first home event of the season.
After missing the Fargo North Triangular and the Manley Memorial Invite last weekend due to poor driving conditions, the Magicians aim to build on their second-place finish at the Mandan Pentathlon on Dec. 27.
"Our guys are definitely itching to get into race mode again," Minot coach Jake Solper said. "We'll be able to see some really good times from our guys, especially our rookie swimmers and younger athletes that haven't had a lot of opportunity to compete in the past. I think they'll be geared up."
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot High athletics. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.