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Unique tradition gives Mosinee volleyball a sense of prideSubmitted: 08/21/2017

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MOSINEE - At first glance most volleyballs look generally the same. They're the same shape, same size, and similar colors. There's a tradition in Mosinee, however, that adds a little pop to both the volleyballs and the program.

"I just love this tradition," said head coach Justin Jacobs. "I feel like it's unique to us and something we can be proud of."

It's a tradition that pre-dates the sixth-year head coach, and it's just as much a part of Mosinee volleyball as the colors of the jerseys.

"I think it's very unique because not many other schools do it," said junior Allison Miller.


Each year the girls that make the varsity team decorate a ball to be used in practice and before matches.

"They get their own blank ball and from there they get to fill in inspirational quotes, names, things that are important to them," said Jacobs.

It's a tradition the players love. And it's unique for each of them.

"Every year I always make sure to put my teammates' names on it because it is really important to show that this was the year I had Janay and Page and Sydney and so on, on my team," said senior Brooke Wierzbanowski.

Miller, however, hasn't finished hers yet.

"I have blank spaces that I want to put my own messages, my own motivational quotes that will push me in practice every day, and hopefully others can pick it up and push themselves too," said Miller.

Those messages will be read for years to come. That's because the volleyballs are passed on from one generation of Mosinee players to the next.

"We actually coach a fourth-grade team together and then sometimes at practice they want to use our old past balls, so it's pretty cool seeing that come full circle," said senior Sophie Kamke.

Jacobs says that shows the players they're a part of a larger program.

"The legacy carries on," said Jacobs. "The tradition carries on of being a part of something bigger."

That bigger something goes beyond just the volleyball court.

"To something that may not even be related to sports, it may be related to something else, and anything is possible, and a simple ball with a quote on it can push you every day."

Mosinee finished second in the Great Northern Conference last year. The Indians start their season with an invitational Tuesday afternoon.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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CRANDON - Some people call it a NASCAR race on water with a crash on every lap. It's party on the shore, and intense competition on the lake. It's really fast, and really bumpy.

"The only way to explain it is, it's like tons of speed bumps, one after another, and you go over it with your car," said 2017 Footstock Open Division Champion Keith St. Onge.

The goal is simple: go over those speed bumps and hold on longer than the competitor next to you. But that's a lot easier said than done.

"Your legs are getting burned out, feet can get burned out, forearms and your grip on the handles can get burned out, the whole thing," said St. Onge.

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LINCOLN COUNTY - Tucked away at a small recreation area near Gleason, mountain bikers push themselves to the physical and mental limits every summer.

Earlier today, over 100 riders rode their mountain bikes through 100 miles of trails for the annual Thunderdown in the Underdown.

The 33-mile loop of the Thunderdown in the Underdown is pretty unique.

"Probably the most technical course that I've ridden, outside of going out west to Colorado or some of the stuff up in Canada," said one of the riders, Justin Lund from Tomahawk.

On that 33-mile loop, mountain bikers will see plenty of different land marks.

"Four lakes, climb 64 hills, they're going to go by the Manthei Marsh and pass the Prairie Dells," said race organizer and rider, Chris Schotz.

Simply put, the Underdown Recreation Area in Lincoln County is unlike anything else in the state.

"There are some things here that they won't see anywhere else," said Schotz.

Riders have the choice of doing the loop once, twice, or the few bold ones that do it three times, for a total of 100 miles.

"Make sure you're drinking enough out there, make sure you're getting enough calories coming in because that will get you into trouble before your technical riding ability does," said Lund.

The event has been a part of the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series for about 12 years. And it's come a long way since it started with a much shorter trail.

"Probably 10-12 miles, nothing very big, but very, very challenging and that hasn't changed over the years," said Lund.

Another thing that hasn't changed over the years is the respect the riders gain for each other after 10 hours, sometimes more, of riding.

"Whether you're competitive or just here to have a good time, you definitely respect each other out there," said Lund.

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HARSHAW - The Rhinelander scholarship golf scramble held its seventh annual outing at the Pinewood Country Club on Saturday. The event is put on by members of the RHS Class of 1980, and has raised $22,000 dollars since 2011. Outing coordinator Dave Robinson says it's all about giving back.

"We can give back to the community that we graduated from, that was the biggest thing, and we kind of said, why didn't we start this years ago?," said Robinson.

The scramble raises money through golf participants and raffle items. Last year's outing was rained out but the raffle and donations still raised $6,000. Robinson says he hopes another class of graduates might get involved going forward.

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Friday Night Blitz - 8/18/17Submitted: 08/18/2017

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NORTHWOODS - Check out Friday Night Blitz for all the scores, highlights, and updates from across the Northwoods

Lakeland topped Hayward 28-27.

Antigo defeated Berlin 20-14.

Superior upended Merrill 20-10.

Abbotsford dominated Crandon 42-6.

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RIB LAKE - Take a look at the video above for the Tri-County vs. Rib Lake/Prentice football highlights!

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PHILLIPS - Phillips boys soccer made it all the way to state last year.

"We knew it was going to be the biggest year of our careers," said senior, Mark Cummings.

Former head coach, Mark Fuhr knew they had the potential to do it again this fall.

"From seeing the teams they played last year, was that they would've been a conference favorite this year with just the returning players and a couple new players," said Fuhr.

The team was happy with the best season in school history, but their minds started thinking about the following year.

"Towards the end of the season, we knew we were going to lose a lot of our seniors," said Cummings.

Ten seniors graduated. And after losing that many and not being able to recruit enough players to fill those gaps, Phillips had to cancel their 2017 season.

"Not being able to play my senior year of soccer, really bummed me out," said Cummings.

But the team didn't give up easily.

"We tried to recruit some players to fill in those positions to make up and 11-man team," said Cummings.

But that recruiting wasn't enough. Fuhr has coached the youth and high school teams off and on for nearly 20 years. Struggling with numbers is nothing new to him.

"One of the years, I remember we had 12 kids on the team and one of the kids broke him leg in the first game and I only had 11 the rest of the season," said Fuhr.

Phillips tried to consider forming a co-op with Prentice or Chequamegon, but they don't have a team either.

"To me, it is sad. It's something that if it goes away for more than a year or two, I doubt it'll ever come back," said Fuhr.

Mark Cummings and some of the other former soccer players decided to run cross country to still support the other teams and stay in shape for track season.

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CRANDON - Trap shooting can take place basically anywhere, anytime. You just need some equipment. But for Crandon's high school team, it happens where most people don't know about it - at the historic off-road raceway.

On Saturday, the team held it's annual fund raiser to raise money for their team. This will be senior Kobe Gallion's last season, and he's enjoyed having a non-traditional high school sport as an outlet.

"The competition can get really fierce really fast. The top shooter could shoot a 25, perfect score and then next week could shoot a 5 and then the little kids can start beating us up a little bit," said Gallion.

Those little kids are the 7th and 8th graders that are on the team. All of them know their season wouldn't be possible without the Crandon Off-Road Raceway being a major sponsor. And that community support goes a long way.

"The community really shows a lot of support for what we're trying to do and trying to get the younger kids to come out and shoot. It's nice for even the grandparents that will come out and watch because they can't shoot anymore. And just about that and the community being behind us," said Gallion.

The trap-shooting season is from March until May. The Crandon team had 42 students last year and hopes to keep growing this season.

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ANTIGO - Riding a horse seems pretty easy. But riding a horse against a clock and with obstacles in your way becomes a competitive challenge. Dozens of kids were able to compete in barrel racing earlier today at Antigo's first Triple Crown Event.

Barrell racing doesn't take very long.

"It depends on how big the pattern is but on my last run, I had an 18. So about 18 seconds," said Payten Lese.

And those 18 seconds go by even faster when you're on the horse.

"I'm just trying to remind myself of what I need to do. Get off her head, let her run and just to try my hardest while riding," said Erika Spencer.

Spencer has been barrel racing for about five years.

"It has been the most exhilarating experience of my life," said Spencer.

Yes, it's exhilarating, but for some riders, it's also relaxing.

"It's calming, it relieves stress," said Lese.

At the Northwoods Triple Crown, the age bracket on Sunday was the "youth level".

"I'm too old for the tiny-tots which is 10 and under," said Gabby Spencer.

That's 11-year-old, Gabby Spencer, Erika's little sister.

"She helps me a lot and I kind of look up to her because she's a really good barrel racer," said Gabby.

Something that makes Erika so good, is her hard work.

"You work with something for so long and you put so much time and effort into it. When you do good, it's so rewarding," said Erika.

And that reward is also seeing her little sister get better and better at the sport.

"When I go in there, I'm really nervous and then when I get out, I'm like 'hey, that wasn't so bad'," said Gabby.

Gabby recently won her first event down in Madison, which helped boost her confidence around the barrels.

"Most people think 'girls can't do this' or 'they can't beat them because they're too good' and it does feel good when you win and beat them," said Gabby.

Erika and Gabby's family rides on rescue horses which to them, makes the experience even more meaningful. And, all three of those girls are from Antigo and enjoyed having a new event in their hometown.

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RHINELANDER -
High school swim practice usually requires a pool, lane lines, and diving blocks. But not on Saturday for the Rhinelander girls swim team. They decided to take a day to have a more relaxed practice ahead of their first meet next week.

"We feel like it'll really get the girls motivated," said senior Carly Seidl.

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TOMAHAWK - The Browns Lake Aquaducks traveled all the way from the Lake Geneva area up to Tomahawk this weekend. Why did a whole ski team and all their gear make the long trip? They qualified to compete in the D2 Nationals that were in the Northwoods. I went to the competition to see what it was all about.

The Aquaducks from Burlington, Wisconsin are no strangers to skiing together.

"We practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and we have shows on Thursdays. So it's four times a week and then it's drilling, drilling, drilling trying to get it down to an hour," said skier Justin Spiegelhoff.

That hour is the strict time limit they were allowed on the water to wow the judges during the D2 National ski competition. So what do those judges look for?

"They pretty much spell out exactly what they want to see," said Spiegelhoff.

Joel Johanningmeier is the chief judge and has broken it down to four categories.

"Flow, execution, difficulty and spectator appeal," said Johanningmeier. "Then there's also some box scores that we use for theatricals, boat driving, different pieces."

Something that made it a little harder for the Aquaducks was that about 20 skiers on the team had the stomach flu all week.

"People are recovering.. but it's been a pretty tough week," said Spiegelhoff.

But by the smiles on their faces and the constant cheering, you couldn't tell.

And maybe they all got the stomach flu because they are ALWAYS together, even off the water.

"We do family dinners, yesterday we did team bonding, we all went to a national park and hiked," said skier Justine Laux.

Justin and Justine have been skiing with the group since they were little kids. And they aren't the only ones that are in the group for life.
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No matter the age, the group is always cheering and rooting for one another.

"Stay positive, pump people up. If you have a fall, that's okay. We have something else coming on next," said Laux.

To be at the nationals this weekend, teams had to qualify at state back in July. And this wasn't the first time it was in Tomahawk. The locations rotate every few years, so the event will be back in a couple summers.

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