W.I.L.D. Hodag Mini-Triathlon makes global impactSubmitted: 08/27/2016

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RHINELANDER - The 4th annual W.I.L.D. Hodag Mini-Triathlon took place in Rhinelander on Saturday.

W.I.L.D. stands for Wise International Leadership Development. Money raised will benefit that foundation locally and around the world.

"Teaching young people, older people, because we work with other people here in our area, we work with some people throughout the United States. But our main thrust is Africa and also Nepal," said race director Mike Prom.

The main focus for the organization is on leadership in Africa. With so many youth in that area, there are plenty of opportunities to make an impact.

"Over 70% of the population is 25 and younger. So whoever develops the minds of the young people in the next 20 years will be running the charge in Africa. We want to help develop people," said Prom.

The mini-triathlon and the kayaking instead of swimming option allowed for more people of all ages to participate, regardless of skill level.

Story By: Katie Leszcynski

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Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com


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RHINELANDER - Saturday afternoon, the Pawzitive Games visited Rhinelander, allowing furry four-legged dogs to compete. There was dock jumping, speed races and agility courses.

"Just seeing the dogs jump first and then being able to grow with their jumps and getting bigger and bigger jumps," said Pier Pups announcer Todd Oilschlager.

For dogs to be competitively jumping in the Northwoods isn't that far fetched. Most dogs jump off the dock at the lakes for fun anyway. When they get into a pool setting, it might not be as easy.

"Most people get into the sport from jumping their dog at the lake or off their pier and then when they transfer over trying to get into the pool, clear water compared to lake water, is quite different for training," said Oilschlager.

Watching the dogs fly and splash can look easy, but some skills and techniques are important.

"Trying to get that timing as the dog runs down the doc and then the owner throwing the toy at the right time so the dog can jump up and try and catch the toy in the air is the ultimate goal," said Oilschlager.

It wasn't just jumping going on at the event.. There was also an agility course. Rhinelander trainer, Abby Belbot hasn't been competing for long, but she doesn't let the age gap stop her.

"If some people want to do it, then do it because some people are better than others, if they're younger or older," said Belbot.

Going into the competition, Abby had confidence in her four-legged friend, Lilly.

"She's going to do good, she's done this before. I know we're going to get 2nd or 3rd or maybe even 1st," said Belbot.

But the afternoon also came with some distractions that affected their performance.

"There are other people and dogs around and different smells. She doesn't really get the concept of going through the course with all these noises and smells and stuff," said Belbot.

When those distractions slow them down, Abby doesn't let it frustrate her too much.

"I get a little mad but I pet her and I give her a treat, I give her some water. Something that will be able to calm her down and then try again," said Belbot."

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TOMAHAWK - Tomahawk ran away from Phillips in the second half of Friday night's contest. It was just 8-6 at the halfway point but the Hatchets overwhelmed the Loggers during the second stanza.

Easton Phalin fired a first half touchdown pass to Jackson List in the first half for the Hatchets. They'd go on to win 40-6.

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Antigo topples Oconto 30-8Submitted: 08/26/2016

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ANTIGO - Antigo took down Oconto 30-8 Friday night behind a strong game from quarterback Matt Winter.

Winter tossed a touchdown pass to Adam Schmidt in the third quarter that extended the Red Robins lead to 24. They cruised the rest of the way from there to move to 1-1 on the season.

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River Falls tops Merrill 21-14Submitted: 08/26/2016

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MERRILL - Merrill hosted River Falls in the first game at the Blue Jays new stadium. It turned into a shootout in the first half as the Wildcats of River Falls took a 21-14 lead on an impressive touchdown throw and catch from quarterback Joey Davis to wide receiver Matt Wachtler.

It proved to be the game winning touchdown for the Wildcats. Nevada Laabs scored twice on the ground for Merrill.

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WITTENBERG - Rhinelander took a trip to Wittenberg-Birnamwood Friday night.

Rhinelander's Logan Freund found Josh Francisco on a pass in the first halfm and after Francisco fumbled, Reuben Gozik recovered it in the endzone to give the Hodags a 7-0 lead.

Rhinelander dominated defensively and went on to win 31-13.

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MERRILL - The new Jay Stadium at Merrill High School has players pumped up for their home opener.

"They're very excited. They got to practice on it the past two nights," said Activities Director Rick Bonnell.

The stadium is exciting for the team, but also for the school. Now they can play soccer on the field as well.

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RHINELANDER - For years, Kiah Francis has been outpacing her competition in the pool, but she owes her success to more than just talent.

"It's definitely her drive, like I said training on her own and being willing to drive an hour to Wausau all her life," said Rhinelander varsity swim coach Lindsay Byrka.

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RHINELANDER - The 2016 Rhinelander girl's tennis players are used to having success, having won six conference championships in a row.

That means they've won every Great Northern Conference title since joining the league in 2010.

And this year's squad has more championship experience than most.

"In a typical year, we usually have two to three seniors, and this is an unusual year because we have seven," said Rhinelander Head Tennis Coach Bob Heideman.

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EAGLE RIVER - All weekend long, anglers went musky fishing in Eagle River for the 31st National Championship Musky Open.

The cooler weather Sunday afternoon made for better fishing weather.

Usually the heat at the end of the summer changes things out on the water.

Warmer temps not only force fish deeper, it can also be hazardous to the fish's health.

"You catch a fish, fight it to fatigue and then you release it into the warm water with not much oxygen and then they might look like they swim away but they could end up being dead the next day, so there's delayed mortality," said angler Dave Vollmer.

All the rain the Northwoods saw on Saturday made conditions a little tricky.

There were nearly 1300 people signed up for the tournament.

"Yesterday was pretty brutal. It rained really hard almost all day long. We did get some action so that was pretty good. Today is a lot nicer so at least now we can focus a little more on other areas we didn't get a chance to get to yesterday," said fisherman Mike Maretti.

The open is the largest amateur musky tournament in the U-S and it takes place over seven lake families.

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EAGLE RIVER - The Eagle River derby track filled with UTV/ATV drivers on Sunday. Sometimes when watching them drive around, you can forget how much skill and physical toughness it takes to control the vehicles.

"You have to be in really good shape. Your forearms have to be in really good shape so you don't get forearm pump, your cardio has to be good, your core has to be strong so you can move around on the quad but not get off camber," said ATV-driver Kaden Woodie.

"Your upper body plays a big part in these because you're constantly wheeling back and forth. It is a lot of forearm, it does get exhausting. You're fighting 4-wheel drive so you're constantly just working your body back and forth," said UTV-driver Zach Szymik.

17-year-old Kaden Woodie recognizes the strength it takes to drive a UTV, but also knows the challenge of the ATV's.

"It's more physically demanding. Yeah, with a UTV it's a lot of upper body strength with overcorrecting and steering the car, but a quad is definitely a lot more with the physical abuse and the pounding and everything else," said Woodie.

One of the hardest parts of off-road driving are the jumps and landings. Being physically fit and the right positioning plays a major role.

"You really have to set yourself up so the landings are right so the machine does what you need it to do because if you just come into it and just hit it full tilt, you're going to go for a ride and it ain't going to be good. These are very very touchy. They're not like a 4-wheeler where you can pitch yourself in the air and make adjustments. When you go off a jump, you're at the mercy of the machine," said Szymik.

Even though the driving is tough, the friends and family made at the track makes it worth it.

"The race family, being around friends. Getting to do this with other people, some of my best friends are with me, so I really enjoy it. Winning is always a good part but sometimes that doesn't happen, but you have to take the good with the bad," said Woodie.

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