Crandon's Keegan Kincaid prepares for 7th season as a professional driverSubmitted: 04/20/2018

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CRANDON - Keegan Kincaid spent his winter in an unforgettable way. He took the Crandon girls basketball team to the state tournament. But now, it's back to his main job as a professional off-road driver.

Kincaid is used to seeing the checkered flag.

"We don't often put third place [trophies] up. Not enough room in the trophy case," said Kincaid.

The driver was born and raised in Crandon and quickly became a race fan.

"I always dreamed of racing but I never imagined I'd be where I'm at today," said Kincaid.

And now he's building a new car for his seventh season as a professional driver.

Last year, he raced in a Pro-4 car in the Torc series, but this year he's going back to Pro-2 for the new Lucas-Oil Off-Road season.

"Two-wheel drive. About the same horsepower as the for-wheel drive. About 900 horsepower," said Kincaid.

That horsepower has carried him to finish line after finish line. And some of those titles have been at his home town track at the Crandon International Off-Road Raceway. 

That's where he'll start the 2018 season with the Brush Run.

"We're trying to get a head start on this truck and be ready to go so we can get some testing in so when we hit that first event so we're ready to go and race," said Kincaid.

Racing at home always makes him reflect back to his days as a fan.

"I was in those shoes at one time and sitting on the hill at Crandon and just imagine being here," said Kincaid.

And now that he's in the driver's seat and a home town favorite, he knows that support helps him as he's going 100 MPH.

"To have the majority of fans at that race on your side is really cool," said Kincaid.

The Crandon Brush Run will be the weekend of June 16-17 if you would like to see Kincaid in action.

Story By: Katie Leszcynski

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TOMAHAWK - Jon Long knows it's a little strange to say he has a favorite gas pump.

"A lot of times when I come to use this pump, I have to wait in line," said Long.

But when he uses pump eight at the Tomahawk BP, he knows where his money is going.

"Any time somebody uses that pump, no matter what grade, we give them two cents a gallon," said BP Manager Jim Charles.

The Tomahawk High School Booster Club gets the two cents a gallon to give back to the athletic department.

"[We got] a new wrestling mat this year. They've donated money for the shoot away that the basketball teams have wanted. They've also paid for new sweats and warm ups for the track team," said Athletic Director Ron Wilson.

The booster club has made $8,500 in a little over two years.

"You come to this pump instead of a different pump. Or this gas station instead of another one and it's a pretty minor way of making a big contribution," said Long.

Part of that big contribution goes to more than just warm ups or a wrestling mat.

"Tomahawk lost their athletic trainer for a couple years and the booster club was the first group to step up and say 'hey, this is something we need at the high school'," said Athletic Trainer Ryan Flynn.

Tomahawk High School is now able to have a full-time athletic trainer to help keep the athletes safe.

"It brings more money in for us to put back in to athletics without them having to do anything but pay their normal gas fees," said Flynn.

To the community these two cents are more than just a couple pennies.

"The Hatchet Pride pump, I think the word 'pride' says it all," said Long.

The Tomahawk BP is now a pilot gas station for other stations around the country to start a pride pump of their own.

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CRANDON - Northwoods sports teams hope the latest snowstorm will be the last one from the winter that won't seem to end.

Until all that snow melts, some schools are taking proactive measures to find games for their athletes.

"We're over a month into the season and we still haven't had a practice outside," said Crandon Activities Director Josh Jaeger.

Like most schools, Crandon's sports practices have been confined to hallways and gyms, while games have been cancelled or postponed.

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MINOCQUA - At this point in the season, the Lakeland Union track team is happy to drive more than 10 hours, if that means they can run outside.

"I feel we are ready, although we've kind of had a disadvantage having to run inside. But we've had an advantage running through the harsher weather," said Lakeland sophomore, Aubrey Anderson.

The team is about seven weeks into the season and still has not been able to run on an outdoor track. But that will change this weekend as seven of the distance runners will compete in the Kansas Relays at the University of Kansas.

"It's not just a high school meet, it's a college meet that they've invited high school athletes to," said head coach Kevin FitzPatrick.

Those seven were chosen because they were all state qualifiers last year. This will be Anderson's first time making the trip.

"I'm looking forward to running against hard competition and outside, for sure on an outdoor track," said Anderson.

The harder competition is mainly why the team likes to go. But top runner Kav FitzPatrick he has his eye on one specific event.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to steeplechase there," said Kav FitzPatrick.

The steeple chase is not a WIAA event, which makes that opportunity few and far between. But in true Kav FitzPatrick fashion, that's not the only event he wants to do well in. He'll also run the 800.

"I'm in the fast section so hopefully getting out there and running a fast time," said FitzPatrick.

The Great Northern Conference meet is only a month away. Being able to compete outside, no matter where, is a big advantage.

"We're using this as a jumping off point for the outdoor season and then hopefully to get them on the podium at the state track meet this June," said Kevin FitzPatrick.

Most of those seven runners chose to make the trip, even though it meant missing prom this weekend.

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RHINELANDER - The added snow the Northwoods got on Sunday means baseball, softball, girls soccer, outdoor track won't happen any time soon, unfortunately.

Over at Pioneer Park where Rhinelander softball plays, the parks department has tried to do all they can by plowing the snow off the field, but they can't do much more.

"We've just done it once this year, but we may have to skim the top layer. The grass is soft now because it has thawed a little bit, so we have to be really careful about the outfield," said Rhinelander Parks Director Jeremy Biolo.

So the grass is a factor at Pioneer Park. Over at Hodag Park where the baseball team plays, they have a whole other obstacle.

"Baseball wanted to get on down at Hodag Park also and because of the irrigation systems, we can't afford to blow off those diamonds. There's too much money invested in those sprinkler heads," said Biolo.

Biolo added that with this new snowfall, he'll probably talk to Rhinelander Athletic Director Brian Paulson about once a week. They'll try and figure out a way to get the teams outside as soon as possible.

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RHINELANDER - The snow keeps canceling all the outdoor sports like baseball and softball.

But at the YMCA of the Northwoods in Rhinelander, kids are sticking to the indoor sports.

This spring, they have youth volleyball on Saturday's.

The program is for third through sixth graders.

And kids like 7-year-old Abigail Nelson are building on the confidence side of the game.

"It just feels good when you get it up and over. And then when you hit it and it gets up and then the other team on the other side can get it, it makes you feel good because you can actually score a point," said Nelson.

One of the instructors, Matt Steingrabber has talked with the Rhinelander high school coaches.

They said to start teaching an overhand serve at that young age to get them ready for the middle and high school levels.

"Even though a lot of them aren't strong enough to get it over consistently, we move them up forward, we purchased some lighter, bigger volleyballs that are great with kids this age to teach them those skills," said Steingraber.

If your child is interested in joining the volleyball class, you can find the YMCA of the Northwoods' contact information below.

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MERCER - Training without a track and having limited space makes life tough for a track team. Those are some of the challenges that the Mercer Tigers face each year.

Overcoming them can be difficult at times. But for one family, it's just part of who they are.

Bob Schenk has coached track and field for nearly four decades.

"I can't give up, I still think I have something I can offer the kids," said Schenk.

For 39 years, Schenk has offered guidance and wisdom to hundreds of athletes.

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RHINELANDER - More than 200,000 female high school students participate in cross country across the United States. Less than three-percent of those athletes go on to compete at a Division I level.

"It's been a dream of mine ever since 6th grade when I started cross country," said Rhinelander senior Alayna Franson.

Now, that dream is reality, as Franson will head to UW-Milwaukee to continue her impressive cross country career.

Different schools wanted her, [saying] 'hey we'd love to have Alayna come run [for us]' and some coaches were just relentless after her," said Rhinelander Cross Country Head Coach MJ Laggis.

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Rhinelander golf gets creativeSubmitted: 04/11/2018

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RHINELANDER - Golfers typically want to stay away from the water.

"That's a sign you're not doing very well, you don't want to hit the water," said Rhinelander senior, Jacob Mahner.

But this week, the Rhinelander golf team embraced the pool.

"It's a good time. It's different, I don't think any other golf team does it because it's just our thing I guess," said Mahner.

At this point in the season, they team has only been able to do weight training and go over some rules.

"This is definitely the worst year that I've seen. For the amount of snow we've gotten and they're predicting more this weekend so that does not look positive," said head coach Adam Schmidt.

Schmidt has been with the Hodags for five years. This isn't the first time he's had the team chipping into the pool.

"You always want to pick a spot with whatever you're hitting. Whether it's a driver or a chip shot or a putt, you always want to pick a spot," said Schmidt.

Those spots were a canoe or a circular pool noodle. Even with the unique atmosphere, the golfers saw the benefits.

"It definitely helps with our short game, which is a really important aspect of golf," said Rhinelander sophomore Devon Gaber.

Whether they were hitting their putts or hitting their dives, at least they were hitting something. Because right now, the Northwood Golf Course is still a cross country ski course.

The Hodags had a meet scheduled for Thursday, but it was canceled. They'll try again next Tuesday at Marshfield, once again depending on the snow. 

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THREE LAKES - Most Northwoods teams would love to have just one all-state player in any given sport. Three Lakes softball boasts not one, but two of them.

"We've built our strength through the middle of the field," said Head Coach Tony Lorbetske.

That means an All-State pitcher in Anna Lorbetske, All-State shortstop Macy Sowinski and All-Conference catcher Karlie Volk.

"They're kids that I've been working with since they were youth [players.] The whole group has stayed together," said Tony Lorbetske.

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RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander girls soccer team knows defending a championship can be difficult.

"Being defending conference champions, we have a target on our back," said Head Coach Dan Millot.

That target has been there since 2012, when the Hodags won their first of six titles in a row.

But so far this year, like many teams across the Northwoods, Rhinelander is battling the weather instead of opponents.

"Being in a parking lot, there's a lot of things you can't do properly with soccer," said Millot. "You're definitely not sliding on the ground and have to be careful with your coordination."

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