MHS hopes to kick off new era of domination

The white walls that encompass the Magic City Campus swimming pool don’t quite feel like walls at all. They appear to be massive poster boards erected solely to hang state championship banner after state championship banner.

Twenty-five Minot High boys swimming and diving flags – maroon with gold lettering – and 23 girls pennants – with the school colors reversed – suspend as a history lesson of the school’s success.

The Magicians and Majettes reeled off six straight state titles in simultaneous years on two occasions (1978 to 1983 and 2003 to 2008). They each own in excess of a dozen championships more than any other school.

“Minot has been a very strong swimming community for as long as I can remember and much longer than I’ve even been around,” Magicians sixth-year coach Jake Solper said. “It’s been a source of pride for swimmers and divers in Minot.”

But the past five years haven’t been as smooth for either program.

Until last month, when the Majettes edged West Fargo to end a four-year state title drought, which was their longest since falling short five straight times from 1989 to 1993.

Now, the Magicians, two years separated from their last state championship, can sweep the boys and girls titles for the first time in five years.

Senior captains Ethan and Mason Bahl yearn to return Minot swimming to the heights it reached between 1999 and 2008, when their brother, Nick Bahl, and cousin, Andy Burckhard, helped the powerhouse program finish atop the podium 10 years in a row.

“We’re hoping we can start that off again,” said Ethan Bahl, the defending 100-yard breaststroke state champion. “Our cousin and our brother have done it before. They were able to hold a decade of domination. We’re hoping to start a new decade.”

Ethan Bahl is the Magicians’ lone returning first-team all-state selection. Last year his goal was to win the breaststroke event at the state meet. He has larger aspirations this season.

“This year, I’m hoping to beat one of the records up there,” Bahl said, pointing to the Minot High record board.

He hopes to best the 58.02 seconds that remain the school’s top time at the state meet. Last year he finished in 58.45 seconds.

Mason Bahl, a second-team all-stater who swims and dives, finished seventh in that event. Ethan admits he wants the title and record all to himself, but he wouldn’t mind some company during the awards ceremony.

“Hopefully this year (we finish) 1-2, standing next to each other on the podium,” he said. “Our parents seeing the twins up there, that’d be pretty nice.”

The Magicians also boast all-state swimmers in senior Kevin McGlaughlin and freshman Gerald Brown on their 52-athlete roster.

Seniors Ryan Swartwout and Dan Clark, the squad’s other two captains, also return experience. Swartwout and Ethan Bahl teamed up with now-graduates Luke Heilman and Parker Scott to win the 200 freestyle relay title.

“We’ve got a really nice returning group,” Solper said. “We’ve got another strong senior class. Our juniors have been really an outstanding class ever since their freshman year. We have two good classes at the top of our roster that can be good mentors and leaders for our younger athletes.”

After claiming the West Region championship last year, Minot placed second behind Century at the state meet. The Magicians took third in 2012 following a crazy finish that featured a tie for first between Fargo North and West Fargo.

Solper said schools like North and Mandan have had winning traditions for years, and in recent years “other communities in our state are really developing and growing their programs,” making for a more competitive field.

He dubs Century as a favorite to repeat. But Mason Bahl and his 10 classmates have a new decade to begin.

“On every senior’s wish list is to win state,” he said. “We have a lot of competition, but we have a really strong team, too. Bismarck Century’s the favorite this year. I just hope we can get it all together by that state meet.”

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.