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TRAINING CAMP: Thousands of fans welcome the Packers back to Green BaySubmitted: 07/27/2017

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GREEN BAY - Packers training camp started Thursday morning at Ray Nietschke Field. Just like in years past, thousands of fans gathered to welcome the team back.

This training camp, the Packers celebrate 60 years with St. Norbert College. That unique relationship makes the historic atmosphere here at camp.

"It's an incredible atmosphere. I know the excitement and that they feel good. It's the first day of training camp. This will be the best their bodies feel for the next seven months," said head coach Mike McCarthy.

The next seven months started Wednesday at camp. Wisconsin Rapids native, former Badger and Packers rookie Vince Biegel knew the first day would be special.

"Being able to ride bikes, being able to be a part of the program and being a part of this great organization was awesome today. I can't wait for the rest of mini-camp, I can't wait for the rest of my future here in Green Bay," said Biegel.

Even the veterans look forward to seeing the thousands of fans gathered for a simple practice.

"We wonder if their job gives them sick days to come out here and catch us at training camp. They're out here every single day, which is spectacular," said Clay Matthews.

Coach McCarthy started the day at 7:45am. The early morning couldn't stop him from wanting to start the season on the right note.

"A lot of enthusiasm and it's a true credit to the environment our fans create for us," said McCarthy.

That unique atmosphere that really lifts the spirits of the players will be transferred into Lambeau Field starting September 10th when the Packers host the Seahawks.




Story By: Katie Leszcynski

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GREEN BAY - Packers fans don't have to wait very long to see the green and gold in game action. The season is fast approaching, and the Pack kicked off training camp Thursday in Green Bay.

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RHINELANDER - This week, a group of bike riders decided to make the Northwoods home. Pedal Across Wisconsin first started in 1985 and they have made trips to Rhinelander for the last few decades. 

This year, they reached a new record with 140 riders and they had to make two trips instead of the usual one. They are in Rhinelander this weekend, Eagle River next week, and then will do it all over again the week after for the second group of riders.

"I bet you 80% are repeats. So they're coming back, as a matter of fact, some are doing two and three tours a year, they're having such a great time with us," said organizer and rider, Pamela Rulau.

Those 140 riders come from all over the United States. Pedal Across Wisconsin's main focus is to give riders a quiet, scenic and safe route. Which is something the Northwoods has to offer.

"For bikers, it's lovely because there's not a lot of traffic on the roads. Most of these people live in more urban areas where there's a lot of cars. So coming up here and riding in these beautiful areas with very light traffic and very courteous traffic, it's wonderful," said organizer, Janice Goldman.

While in Rhinelander, the group meets at the Perch Lake Shelter off County K and ride in that area. Pedal Across Wisconsin has seven trips a year, five of them in Wisconsin, one in Washington state and one in the Florida Keys. If you would like to join the group follow the link below.

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STEVENS POINT - Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Tisha Venturini won five Olympic Gold Medals, five World Cup Championships and 12 NCAA titles between the three of them. 

Now that their soccer careers have come to an end, they now travel the US teaching the next generation of players. This weekend, their camp called Team First Soccer Academy is in Stevens Point.

So what exactly is it like for a junior soccer player from Wisconsin Rapids to not only meet her soccer idols, but to play with them?

"They've always been an inspiration to me. Mia Hamm, you watch soccer, if you watch soccer, you know who Mia Hamm is, you know who Kristine Lilly is, you know who they are. It's amazing that they're ten feet in front of me teaching me how to do soccer drills, it's awesome," said 15-year-old Hannah Nyman

Kristine Lilly knows how to handle that excitement but she uses the camp as a way to show kids that she's also a regular person, not just a player.

"Wow! She's not really that tall, she's not really that big, but she's good," said Lilly.

The soccer stars are trying to visit all 50 states with their camp. 

This is their first time in Wisconsin. They came to UW-Stevens Point because the women's head coach, Dawn Crow, was their teammate at the University of North Carolina where the team went 97-1-1.

"Any opportunity to help a teammate and support what they're trying to build in this community is important for us," said Hamm.

So how did they decide exactly to do this team oriented camp?

"We played for the National team together for 17 years and we saw each other every month, for months on end and so selfishly we wanted to see each other and we also wanted to share the love of the game," said Lilly.

That love of the game is now being shared with the next generation, which to Kristine is an inspiration.

"We grew up with no female role models, at least in soccer, it was all male predominantly in every sport," said Lilly.

Mia Hamm knows how big of a role model she is, and she takes the time and effort to give back to the soccer world.

"We're not here to show up and sign some autographs and go have coffee for the rest of the afternoon. We're, as you can see, on the field, a part of every part of this curriculum, every session," said Hamm.

That hard work pays off for the campers, which makes the experience of meeting these huge soccer stars even better.

"These women are really good and really strong players and I think that encourages us to become like them," said Nyman.

Other former teammate, Tisha Venturini is usually at the camps with Mia and Kristine, but was back home due to family matters. The camp will continue into Sunday and then the team first crew will be on to their next stop.

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HAYWARD, WISCONSIN - Chopping, sawing and log rolling pretty much sum up the jobs of lumberjacks. And for the last 58 years, Hayward, Wisconsin hosts the Lumberjack World Championships.

Kate Witkowski loves traveling to Hayward every year for the world championship weekend.

"This is THE big event so if you win this, you get to call yourself a world champion," said Witkowski.

Kate is from Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin and got her start as a lumber"jill" when she was at UW-Stevens Point.

But not all lumberjacks are from Wisconsin, or even the United States.

"Yes, I am the first Belgian competitor here at the World Lumberjack Championships," said Koen Mrartens.

Mrartens is from the Province of Antwerp in Belgium. He is a tree climber arborist, which is how he got into the world of lumberjack-ing.

"There are a lot of good competitors here so it's a good opportunity for me to learn," said Mrartens.

With competitors coming from all over the world, why is the event held in Hayward, Wisconsin? Because of the lumberjack history.

"Lumberjack sports started as a professional career. There were lumberjacks running down the rivers with the logs. Which adds a historical context and a nice culture to the event and I'm really proud to say I'm from Wisconsin and I have that background," said Witkowski.

The female lumberjack culture has grown quite a bit since then. And Kate couldn't be happier.

"I think that challenge in itself is pretty appealing to me. We kind of have to work a little bit harder to make a name for ourselves and prove that we deserve to be here," said Witkowski.

It was a little nerve-racking to watch the lumberjacks and Jills handling such axes and saws and going so fast. But to them, it's simpler than that.

"What's going through my head when I'm chopping? Is just chopping, nothing else, just chopping. It's me, my axe and the block beneath me," said Mrartens.

Koen is a pretty straight-forward guy. Even when it comes to summing up his experience in Wisconsin.

"It's awesome. Just one word- it's awesome to be here," said Mrartens.

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RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander Rebels hosted the first round of the regional legion baseball tournament Wednesday night.
 
Merrill faced off against Eagle River to get the regional, double-elimination tournament started on Wednesday. Merrill won 17-3.

Next up was Antigo and Minocqua.

The game started off with Antigo's bats on fire. Run after run would make it home and Antigo would take down Minocqua 13-3.

As of now, predications are showing that it could come down to a battle between Antigo and Rhinelander in the final game Saturday night.

Rhinelander vs. Shawano started at about 8:15 Wednesday to end the night of games.

Full tournament schedule:

WEDNESDAY, JULY 19

Game 1: Merrill vs. Northwoods, 3 p.m.

Game 2: Antigo vs. Minocqua, 5:30 p.m.

Game 3: Shawano vs. Rhinelander, 8 p.m.

THURSDAY, JULY 20

Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 3 p.m.

Game 5: Winner Game 1 vs. Loser Game 3, 5:30 p.m.

Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 8 p.m.

FRIDAY, JULY 21

If Winner of Game 1 win Game 5

Game 7: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 6, 3 p.m.

Game 8: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 5:30 p.m.

Game 9: Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8, 8 p.m.

If Loser of Game 3 wins Game 5

Game 7: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 3 p.m.

Game 8: Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6, 5:30 p.m.

Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 7, 8 p.m.

SATURDAY, JULY 22

If Winner of Game 1 wins Game 5 OR If Loser of Game 3 wins Game 5 AND Winner of Game 6 wins Game 9

Game 10: Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 9, 5:30 p.m.

Game 11: Repeat Game 10 (if necessary), 8 p.m.

If Loser of Game 3 wins Game 5 AND Winner of Game 7 wins Game 9

Game 10: Winner Game 8 vs. Loser of Game 9, 5:30 p.m.

Game 11: Winner of Game 9 vs. Winner of Game 10, 8 p.m.

SUNDAY, JULY 23

Rain Date, if necessary

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TOMAHAWK - Eighteen-year old Tomahawk native Gabrielle Jahn knows every turn of the Tomahawk Speedway by heart. She's watched races at the track her whole life, and even raced on the clay oval last summer. But Gabby wasn't always able to race.

"She was in casts for two years. It was hard," said Gabby's mother, Krysta.

Gabby has a progressive neurological disorder that affects her legs.

"I would be tripping and falling and all this nonsense," said Gabby.

It all started when Gabby was two. She underwent years of testing without ever finding concrete answers. Then, her life took another tough turn.

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THREE LAKES - Sports camps teach you to respect the game, your teammates, and coaches. In Three Lakes, basketball players had no trouble looking up to their coach for the day on Monday. That's because that coach has played all over the world.

Brian Butch towers over young basketball players in Three Lakes like a giant.

"I've never even seen somebody his height before," said Three Lakes senior Karlie Volk.

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STEVENS POINT - Sports today include more technology than ever before. Science is more advanced, data is more easily available, and coaches and athletes are more willing to use it all.

On Thursday July 13, UW-Stevens Point hosted the Great Lakes Analytics in Sports conference to allow people to teach, learn, and share everything they know.

"This is the way of the world now, whether it's in sport or anything else. It's analyzing data to make smarter and more efficient decisions," said Robert Morris University Sport Management Professor John Clark.

Those decisions about strategy, practice, and even medical benefits are backed by numbers more than ever before. That's why UWSP decided to host Wisconsin's first ever sports analytics conference.

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WAUSAU - Summertime in Northern and Central Wisconsin means time spent on the water. That usually means time on a boat for fishing or just for leisure. Another popular way to enjoy the water is in a kayak. And Wausau offers one of the best locations for it.

"It's really just enjoyable to be out on the water and you're always learning," said Whitecap Kayak Neal Schroeter.

Thanks to Whitecap Kayak, learning the ropes of whitewater kayaking is better than ever. Schroeter started the company 12 years ago to teach young people about the sport.

"As they learn, then we have them help instruct and lead trips," said Schroeter.

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RHINELANDER - Thousands of gun enthusiasts practice competitive practical shooting around the world. If you're in the Northwoods, you don't have to go very far to try it for yourself. One group in Rhinelander gets together every week, and they love welcoming new shooters.

"We just have an absolute blast," said USPSA Range Officer Mike Rouse Sr.

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