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Focusing on Minot: Dickinson High ready, prepared to compete against Majettes

Press Photo by Royal McGregor From left to right, sophomore Keana Kudrna, senior Mikaela Kessel, sophomore Acacia Fossum and senior Jenna Mueller watch a floor routine during the Dickinson Invitational on Dec. 13 at DHS gymnasium.

The Dickinson High gymnastics team isn’t treating this week like any other. For good reason too, because the upcoming meet isn’t like any other this season.

It’s Minot week.

The Midgets travel to the Majettes Invitational at 5:30 p.m. today.

“All of us older girls have been telling the younger girls that this is a week that we really have to get serious,” said Dickinson sophomore Acacia Fossum, who is the three-time defending all-around champion. “We have to perform our best. This is just one of those meets that means a lot to us.”

Over the last seven seasons, Dickinson and Minot have finished either first or second in the state. During the span, Dickinson won three North Dakota state team titles — including the latest the 2013 championship — and Minot won four straight from 2009 to 2012.

If there wasn’t a rivalry before the previous seven seasons, there is one now.

“It’s turned into that,” Dickinson head coach Kent Van Ells said. “There is definitely a feeling that they are ones you have to get by to become state champions. That turns it into a bit of a rivalry. I think they feel the same way of course.”

Though the two teams normally meet earlier this season, Dickinson and Minot have yet to face one another.

In 2012, the two teams met at the Milo Dullum Meet on Dec. 7. This season the Midgets and the Majettes have each competed in six meets, while the two teams have only competed on the same day twice — Dec. 13 and Jan. 10.

“It’s a little strange considering the number of teams in the state, which is 11,” Van Ells said. “There are very few if any duals that we wouldn’t have run into them. It seems like before last year we’d see them a couple times before we’d go to Minot. That is a little bit usual. It’s the luck of the draw, because there are a number of teams at every meet and we’ve been going in different directions.”

After six meets, the Midgets are averaging a team score of 146.840, while Minot has a 145.045. Dickinson might be leading in average, but the Majettes have the highest score recorded this season at 148.200 in Grand Forks. The highest score the Midgets have finished with is 147.975 during the Wahpeton Invitational.

Dickinson and Minot each have three gymnasts in the North Dakota top 10 and share the top four spots. Fossum leads the state with an average of 37.942, while Minot junior Madison Reiter is second (37.650) and sophomore Hannah Werchau is third (37.508). Dickinson sophomore Keana Kudrna is fourth (37.358).

Dickinson senior Mikaela Kessel said it’s easy to look at the results each team throughout the season, but it is different when the teams face each other in competition.

“Every single time we meet it’s always a battle,” said Kessel, who is ranked No. 10 in the state with a 36.400 average. “You never know how it is going to end. On Monday, I told the girls, ‘This is a lot different competition. This is a bigger week.’ There is excitement and fire in practice. Everyone is working even harder and I like to see that.”

Though the Midgets want to leave Minot High School gymnasium with a victory, Kessel said the team wants to win when it matters most at the West Region and state meet.

“Winning there isn’t going to be easy,” she said. “We have to go in there and hope for the best, but expect the worst. We are just going to go and do what we can do. That’s all we can do.

“I’m really confident in our team. Just the way we’ve been working and our attitude. We’ve had a good season so far and we are just trying to keep it going.”