Three Phillips powerlifters qualify for national meetSubmitted: 03/16/2018

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PHILLIPS - The Phillips powerlifting team makes the most out of what it has.

Just like Rocky in Rocky IV, the Phillips powerlifters don't have the fanciest of gyms.

"We kind of like to compare ourselves to the Rocky movies. Where he trains, and then where the Russian trains in these other gyms with all the high tech gadgets and the new equipment," said Phillips Powerlifting Coach Steve Mealman.

But these lifters don't seem to mind.

"We have this small gym, and it's all you need," said senior powerlifter Kenzie Svoboda.

It's all they needed to send four lifters to the state meet, and three to the national meet.

But their gym and their sport give these athletes more than just a place to train their bodies.

"You have to have the self-discipline to make yourself better. You have to want to get better," said senior powerlifter Brice McClay.

McClay actually attends Chequamegon High School, but lifts with the Loggers.

Hi and his teammates learn self-discipline and self-confidence.

"You walk up to the bar and tell yourself you're not going to get it, you're not going to get it," said junior powerlifter Virginia McMillan.

Those are lessons that extend outside of the weight room.

"That feeds on to everything else. You know everything else in life. Teach them what they can do here and hopefully they'll take it with them," said Mealman.

For new state deadlift record holder, Kenzie Svoboda, that fact rings true.

"I was really anti-social when I started powerlifting. Powerlifting really brought out my personality and who I really am," said Svoboda.

It's who she really is, and who they really are.

Through an individual sport, it's something they've discovered together.

"[There's] a lot of teamwork involved in it," said McClay.

"Our team is family," said Svoboda.

And because of that, they don't plan to change a thing.

Svoboda, McClay and McMillan will compete in the national powerlifting meet March 22-25 in Appleton.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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Three Lakes - 101
Wittenberg-Birnamwood - 99
Rib Lake - 94
Chequamegon - 92.5
Northland Pines - 87. 5
Ashland - 86
Prentice - 28
Laona/Wabeno - 11

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TOMAHAWK - Four years ago, the Tomahawk Hatchets won just four softball games.

But then a new group of players joined the program as freshmen.

Now, as seniors, those Hatchets have their sights set on something special.

"I think when you set goals, you have to make them realistic, but you also have to reach for something," said Tomahawk Head Coach John Larson.

In 2018, the Tomahawk Hatchets are reaching further than they ever have before.

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RHINELANDER - Millions of people use a bow for hunting or target shooting across the United States. Right here in the Northwoods, kids have the chance to learn the sport at the YMCA.

"The key is to be teachable," says instructor Allen Raub.

At the YMCA of the Northwoods, that's all you need to learn how to shoot a bow.

"We provide the bows; we provide the arrows, the targets, all the equipment," said Raub.

While Raub provides the training. He says any kid can be successful at the sport.

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RHINELANDER - Here in the Northwoods, snow can stay on the ground well into the spring sports season. That means teams that rely on the outdoors for competition have to use indoor space for practice.

"It's obviously a scheduling nightmare, but we're utilizing the gym. We're utilizing our fitness center, [and] the hallways," said Rhinelander Activities Director Brian Paulson.

Track and field is one sport that's able to use that time indoors more easily.

"Baseball, softball, golf, they need indoor space, soccer, [and] they need indoor space when the snow is on the ground. For us, the hallway works. We can run in the hallway," said Rhinelander Track & Field Coach Aaron Kraemer.

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EAGLE RIVER - Each spring, Chuck Decker looks out at his derby track in Eagle River and thinks 'can we have another race?' 

Well this year, he tried it. The USSA series added a race at the Derby Track called "The Last Dance". 

Matt Schulz made the decision to retire from snowmobile racing. But when he heard there was a new race at the Derby Track, he wanted back in.

"They called it 'The Last Dance' and it kind of made me, it made sense for us to dig one of my old sleds out," said Schulz.

The Decker's are hoping this will be a yearly tradition, but it will be weather permitting. On Saturday, the sun was warm, but they were able to race one last time.

"The weather's been holding out and trails are even open so why not?" said Schulz.

Nick Van Strydonk is no stranger to the famous Derby Track. He races in the TLR series which ended last weekend. But he never says no to Eagle River.

"Try a bunch of stuff that you might not have wanted to try during the World Championship and it's another race �" that's what we do in the winter time, we race," said Van Strydonk.

Knowing Van Strydonk would be there was another motivation for Schulz to make a return.

"We didn't want Nick to come up here and just take it away so we wanted to come up and try and give him a run for his money," said Schulz.

Not many people can give Van Strydonk a run for his money, but Schulz came close. Nick took first and Matt took second on Saturday.

"All in all, I think it was a pretty successful season and we stayed uninjured, which is the big thing for me now," said Van Strydonk.

With no injuries, that meant he was able to take one "last dance".

"Any chance you get to run at Eagle River is kind of like a blessing," said Van Strydonk.

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MARSHFIELD - A few weeks ago, the Rhinelander High School boys hockey team won it's first playoff game since 2014.

This weekend the Hodags pee wee level team traveled down to Marshfield for the 3A 12U state tournament.

Rhinelander was one of eight teams to make it to the state tournament.

The Hodags lost nine to five to Sauk Prairie in the first round, but head coach Tom Roeser says the experience will help the players in the future.

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Katie's Pick: Crandon girls basketball
Mark's Pick: Rhinelander wrestling

Best Athlete of the Winter Season
Katie's Pick: Owen White
Mark's Pick: Jack Garcia

Best Coach of the Winter Season
Katie's Pick: Keegan Kincaid
Mark's Pick: Ryan Brown

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NORTHWOODS - Marshfield topped Merrill 64-59.

McDonell Central Catholic defeated Rib Lake 78-51.

Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran toppled Phelps 78-67.

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GREEN BAY - The Crandon girls basketball team captivated its community and defied its doubters on the way to the state semifinals.

However, that impressive run ended Thursday night in a 75-38 loss to top-ranked Aquinas.

Despite the loss, the Cardinals know they completed a very impressive season, and hope they can duplicate it next year.

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RHINELANDER - Darin Bloomquist knew he had a chance to win a bowling state championship this year.

"It really is an adrenaline rush when you're standing up there bowling at state," said Bloomquist.

And then, it actually happened. Bloomquist beat 94 other bowlers to become the state champ.

"I looked back at Coach Mike and I was just like 'I'm the state champion! I just won state, this is unreal'. I knew I could do it but I didn't think it would actually come true," said Bloomquist.

That championship didn't happen overnight. Bloomquist started bowling at the age of three.

"It became a regular thing for me where it became a passion for me," said Bloomquist.

That passion helped him reach the state meet for the first time his sophomore year.

"The more and more I bowl, the more fun I have doing it and want to better myself," said Bloomquist.

But his junior season, he wasn't so lucky. He didn't make it back to the meet.

"I considered last year more of a learning year. Then this year I came back as a year of redemption," said Bloomquist.

He started practicing more and more and it came full circle for his final season. 

He was first in the district with an 87 fill percentage for strikes and spares. That number one seed made the tournament even sweeter last weekend.

"It allowed me to go into state this year with a good mindset and a good mental state to claim the state title," said Bloomquist.

He is leaving the Hodags on a high note as a state champion. He hopes that title will help other Hodags join the team and help defend his championship.

Bloomquist said he's gotten multiple college offers to bowl. He has not made a decision of where he wants to go to school but he did say he's not done bowling.

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