Drag Boat Races got up to 100mphSubmitted: 07/23/2016

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PELICAN LAKE - For the second year in a row, drag boat racers gathered in Pelican Lake on Saturday at Gerrit's Lakeview Inn, right on the water to test their skills.

The course was only 1,000 feet and boats were reaching around 100mph. The race drew people from all over, including Dane Esser from down in Cassville, Wisconsin. He likes coming up to Pelican Lake for this event for a lot of reasons.

"Adrenaline rush, I guess. There's a challenge to different set ups and your speeds. Down home we don't have a lot of races like that so we have to travel 6 hours north for something like this. And just the competition, getting to know everybody, the friendship," said Esser.

Seeing the boats go that fast was pretty cool. But there is a huge safety factor involved as well. The boats can flip over, so the drivers and race organizers have to prepare for that.

"The wind has a big play. Today we have a little bit of head wind coming in. Most of these boats are tunnel halls, meaning there's a cup underneath of them. If the wind's coming in, you have to be careful. There's a trim switch on the boat. If you can see next to my helmet there, there's a trim indicator that goes up and down. Like if I go over 5 on it, the 5th height, then I'm starting to play with fire and I could blow over," said Esser.

The fire department and EMS were there just in case something like that happened. There were also lots of boats and people on the beach by the restaurant there to take in the action.

Story By: Katie Leszcynski

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MERRILL - When watching Merrill Football, you can spot one player towering over the others.

That player is Jonathan Gruetzmacher and he recently verbally committed to play football at South Dakota State after this season.

"I'll push myself even more far now just because it's a load off my shoulders now that I know I'm set where I want to go," Gruetzmacher said.

With students on campus, the town has about 34,000 people. The home town feel was appealing to Gruetzmacher.

"We took a ride down Main Street and it looked just like Main Street around here. It made me feel like I was at home," said Gruetzmacher.

He also liked the players and coaches he's mete so far. And Gruetzmacher isn't the only Wisconsin player to become a Jackrabbit.

"They all reassured me about how homey it is. One of them was from Waukesha, Wisconsin so he really made it feel like it's a nice place for a Wisconsin kid to be," said Gruetzmacher.

For Merrill head coach Nick Sturm, he's not surprised that Gruetzmacher will be going on to play at a Division 1 program.

"Jon has really developed over the years. He obviously has a body that division one schools like. He's a large kid, he's got long arms, he bends well. Jon's got a nasty streak, too and they love that about him," said Sturm.

Right now Jonathan is at 6'8" 305 and when he goes off to South Dakota State next fall, he wants to build a little bit more muscle.

"Jon's body is about what they're looking for as far as his body weight. Jon just needs to continue to hit the weight room and he has been. Jon's a strong kid and he'll continue to get stronger," said Sturm.

Even though Jonathan has South Dakota State on the mind, he still has another season left in high school. He will use this time to focus on the fundamentals and being a good leader.

"And now it comes down to him refining his techniques and then helping out the younger kids that we have," said Sturm.

Now that the big decision is out of the way, Gruetzmacher is excited to get this season started.

"It's kind of just nice, the little bit of relaxation to be able to focus more on this year and have a great year this year," said Gruetzmacher.

National Signing Day is February 1, 2017 so he can put that verbal commitment into writing then.

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RHINELANDER - Fifteen-year-old Grace Petzold is the founder of the non-profit Graceful Wakes. She gives those with disabilities the opportunity to get out on the water. She came up with this idea after her mom, who uses a wheelchair, was given that same experience.

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FLORENCE - Anglers went looking for bass Saturday morning on the Twin Falls Flowage. John Landenberger won last year but with fishing conditions being unpredictable, his strategy doesn't always work.

"We have our morning spots and we have our afternoon spots and we try to hit those," Landenberger said. "You have to beat other people to them because there aren't really any secret spots on this body of water."

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MOLE LAKE - More than 130 Jeep drivers went off-roading in Mole Lake this weekend for a Jeep Jamboree event.

Each and every Jeep lined up and headed out on the trails Saturday morning. They were ready for a day full of obstacles. But first, they had to be properly trained.

"We teach them how to climb over logs, rocks, and get them through and how to off-road," said event coordinator John Lewins.

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THREE LAKES - In Three Lakes, pickleball is a 7-day a week sport. It's a way to stay in shape and have fun with friends while playing the game that's like tennis and ping pong combined.

This morning, they held a tournament that had 8 courts indoor and outdoor, and a total of 82 teams.

"First of all, pickleball is great exercise. Secondly, it's very social. Third, all ages can play together and men and women can play together and have a wonderful time," said tournament organizer Chuck Radtke.

Most people think the name of the game is a little funny and always wonder where that unique name came from.

"Pickleball gets its name, many say, from the inventor of the game in 1965 on an island off the state of Washington. The inventor had a dog by the name of pickles, so consequently, pickleball," said Radtke.

The club plays every day, free of charge and they are always open to having new players join them. They play on the tennis courts at Don Burnside Park.

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GLEASON - The end of a giant mud pit was the destination for drivers Saturday afternoon at the mud bog that's been going on for over 25 years. Even though hopes were set high to make it all the way, they mostly got stuck after about 30 feet. It's not very far, but drivers enjoy it because of the feeling they get behind the wheel.

"Adrenaline rush of seeing the mud going. And seeing who can get through the pit the fastest without going out of bounds or getting stuck," said driver Joe Mills.

Cars of all shapes and sizes can participate. Since it's not a far distance, one might think not a lot of work is required with the cars, but, think again. Drivers had to make sure their cars were cleaned out and ready to go for the race.

"I went through pretty much the whole top end, checked everything, checked all my fuel, filters, everything. A bunch of tuning and testing," said driver Jacob Gribble.

Teams travel from all around Wisconsin for the event. It mainly serves as a hobby for those who loves cars and adrenaline, but there are some cash prizes involved as well.

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ANTIGO - For the Antigo Swim Club, their annual Splash and Dash serves as a fundraiser and a way to get people out and active. This year, it held a much deeper meaning as the Club remembered its former director, Michelle Koss.

Koss was a diabetes educator in the Antigo area that had a passion for exercise and getting others to have the same mindset. 

This past spring, she passed away after a tragic biking accident. She loved being a part of the swim club because it was an outlet for her to make an impression on young members of the community.

"Michelle not only was a wonderful person in our community, she was advent in our swim club," said new meet coordinator Michelle Arlen.

Someone who truly lives out Michelle's goal is her son Colin and husband Tom. They were able to participate in the Splash and Dash and she was with them the whole way in spirit.

"Last hundred meters, I wanted to cry. I was thinking about her a lot," said Colin Koss.

"When I was out there running, I almost cried a couple times too," said Tom Koss.

Colin was happy to see the event be carried on in her memory and see so many people came out to support the swim club.

"It's been growing the past couple years which is great to see. A lot more people are having fun and enjoying the day with it," said Colin Koss.

Some of the athletes take it competitively and others do it for the atmosphere, good cause, and a fun way to exercise.

"Most people set their own internal goals and they cheer each other on. It's the idea of just getting them out in the water, getting them exposed to swimming. And running, especially in the Northwoods right here, it's just a beautiful spot," said Arlen.

One of the ways that they have kept Michelle's memory alive in the race is to not set too many boundaries for people who want to participate. If you're not strong with running AND swimming, you can still make it work by splitting the race with a partner.

"Make it a family thing �" tandem- if you can swim, if you can run. It was just a wonderful day. If you can see the atmosphere around here, everyone's happy, laughing, it's just great," said Arlen.

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ARBOR VITAE - Even though it's not football season yet, the Wisconsin Badgers program is traveling all over the state to get fans pumped up. Head coach Paul Chryst met with Mendota Gridiron Club members here in the Northwoods on Thursday. 

He has vacationed here all his life, and the Northwoods means a lot to him.

"I've been able to come up north since I was a kid. So to me, it's always meant family," said Chryst.

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MANITOWISH WATERS - People are in town for the holiday weekend and they decided to kick start it by burning some calories.

Visitors from Colorado, California, Iowa, and other states participated in the 20th Just Tri It! in Manitowish Waters. You don't have to be an Ironman pro to do this one.

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