Northwoods Spotlight - Tuscobia Winter Ultra Jan 1Submitted: 01/01/2014
Story By Joe Dufek

SAWYER COUNTY, PRICE COUNTY - Many marathons and bike races take place in the summer. But imagine competing in an ultra-marathon in the snow. Last weekend, folks in Sawyer and Price Counties were doing just that.

In just it's fifth year, the Tuscobia Winter Ultra is growing into quite a wintertime event. Racers have the choice of running, skiing, or biking along the Tuscobia Trail.

Organizer: "When we took over organizing it three years ago," race co-director Chris Scotch explains, "we had roughly 40 people. This year around 150 are taking part. More than three times that."

The trail was used heavily by railroads to move logs to Chippewa Falls and other places. Folks also road the rails on the line until it shut down in the 1960s. Today it's part of the state's many trails for hiking, biking, and riding snowmobiles.

Ron Petit of the Friends of Tuscobia Trail says, "It's an enduring sport. You have people camping along the trail. They get hardcore."

Regardless of how racers where competing, everyone seems to have a reason to enjoy hitting the Tuscobia Trail.

Rhinelander native Kristin Palecek is skiing it for the first time. She's using this as a chance to get ready to ski the American Birkebiner later this year.

"Just like to see the snow off the trees, the nice weather. It's nice to race close to home."

Some just wanted to experience a winter race for the first time.

Milwaukee's Linda Britz calls it, "a wonderful adventure. Can you do this? I just thinks it's really neat to see if you can survive the elements."

Others it's not so much about the race, but spending time with family and friends.

Butch Piontek of Wabeno and his son Justin are biking it together.

"Racing together for 7-8 years. Started snow-biking heavily last year. Good to spend time with my son."

Racers had the choice of either competing in 35, 75, or 150 miles.

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WOOD COUNTY - We now know the names of the people involved in a Wood County Crash that killed two people Tuesday afternoon.

The Wood County Sheriff's Department says the cars crashed head-on along Highway 80 in the Town of Dexter around 3:30.

71-year-old Barbara Baldwin of New Lisbon was driving one of the cars, and died in the crash.

Her passenger, 74 year old Louise Hemenway of New Lisbon, also died.

Another passenger in the car, 72-year-old Dona Sharp, was hurt....as was the driver of the second car, 30-year-old Greg Kopelke of Wisconsin Rapids.

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TOMAH - The Tomah VA Medical Center will end a lease agreement for a shelter for homeless veterans.

The Veterans Assistance Foundation has operated the shelter for nearly 20 years.

Tomah VA spokesman Matthew Gowan says there have been more than 30 incidents involving shelter residents recently.

They include a suicide attempt, a drug overdose and criminal violations.

The center has given the foundation notice that it will end the lease in January.

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EAGLE RIVER - A driver lost control of her car and crashed into the woods southwest of Eagle River late Wednesday afternoon.

It happened on County Highway D near its intersection with County Highway H. The driver was the only person in the car. She wasn't injured.

An Oneida County Sheriff's Deputy on scene couldn't yet say why she lost control of the car.

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CRANDON - Kids learn math and English in school, but this evening, the Crandon school district taught their students how to stay drug free. All year long, the school has been promoting values such as respect and forgiveness and tonight was no different.

The Red Ribbon Walk started at the courthouse and then went to Crandon High School. Along the way, walkers saw signs with facts about living a drug free life. No matter how young the students were, they still heard the message loud and clear.

"It's really good for the youth because they can see not to do drugs. To have this event, it should be about a fun experience and it's really good for kids," said 5th grader Bryce Marshall.

Even with the cold temps and rainy weather, there was still a great turnout. After the walk, there was a presentation by motivational speaker Mike McGowan to really push the message of staying drug free.

"I think it's important that we bring forward all the reasons why drugs are bad for kids. They know drugs are bad but how does it affect their lives?" said Crandon parent and teacher Agnes Keller.

The Red Ribbon walk was just one of many events that the school will have over the year to show students how to live out good, positive values.

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RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce wants to push economic growth and work closer with businesses.
But to do that, the chamber needs a new director first.  That process is just starting.

The Chamber Board of Directors voted to fire executive director Bill Clow October 3rd.  Clow had only started last December.  Eric Britton has been serving as interim director since then.

Past president and current board member Brett Aylesworth says the chamber sent out a job description to all members this week, asking if anyone is interested.

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MERRILL - A former Merrill High School choir teacher will go to jail after a judge found him guilty of sexual assault last month. 

26-year-old Chase Tonar will spend three years on probation and 15 years on a sex offender registry. As a part of that probation, Tonar will serve four months in jail.

Tonar had sex with a student both while he was a teacher at Merrill High School and after he resigned last May.

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THREE LAKES - Baseball fans in Three Lakes watched the Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago Cubs in the first game of the World Series on Tuesday night.

A few of those fans might live on Cy Williams Road, or down the street from Cy Williams Park. As they watched, they may have drawn the connection between that Northwoods man, Cy Williams, and the game they were watching on the field.

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