Northwoods Spotlight - State-bound youth basketball teams - Mar 19Submitted: 03/19/2014
Story By Joe Dufek

RHINELANDER - You don't have to be in college to be part of March Madness. Young teams from Northland Pines and Rhinelander received invites to their version of the Big Dance.

"Our team has done very well, considering we weren't as good last year," Alex Fortier of Rhinelander's 5th Grade Team explains. "We've changed a lot and now we're going to state."

"All the kids are looking up to the March Madness people, the college players," Northland Pines 6th grade player Ryan Peterson adds. "But now we get to have our own tournament that's this big too."

More than 700 boys and girls teams from 5th through 8th grade will play in the Wisconsin State Invitational Championship Tournament.

"The jitters of the bigger gymnasiums, the big crowds- it's exciting," Northland Pines head coach Jim Swenson said.

This will be the Eagles second time at state. Several of them got a taste of the high level of competition last year.

"I was kind of happy, kind of nervous because last year we didn't do very good," Northland Pines player Joe Misina admits.

The boys had a scrimmage Monday night. Both squads saw it as an chance to improve.

It's becoming more and more important for young athletes to have opportunities like this. They need experiences on a big stage to prepare them for high school competition.

"The only way we're going to prepare these kids is to start them out now," Rhinelander head coach Todd McEldowney explains. "And not to play against poor competition but to play against the best kids we can. Because that's how they're going to improve."

Other teams taking part include Antigo and Merrill's 5th grade girls teams, Medford and D.C. Everest in 8th grade girls, and Rhinelander and Wittenberg-Birnamwood's 8th grade boys teams.

It runs March 29th through April 13th throughout the state. Appleton, Stevens Point, and Wausau are among several cities hosting the tournament.

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EAGLE RIVER - Many of us already put out the scary decorations and pumpkins for some Halloween spirit.

If you're looking to take it up a notch, dress like a zombie and grab your running shoes this Saturday.

The 2016 Zombie 5K Fun Run starts at 5 p.m. at Three Eagle Trail in Eagle River.

Zombie Fun Run is still in great need of runners.

Registration is $30 for a t-shirt and a spot as either a runner or a zombie.

Run times don't matter for this race; it is just a race for the fun.

Runners will be given flags attached to a belt to wear throughout the race.

Zombies will then hide on the trail and run after the runners to steal their flags.

Runners with flags left at the end of the race are the winners.

"It's something different. Nothing you know that is normal," said Hallow Fest co-chair Susie Erikson.

You must be over 13-years-old to participate.

Feel free to come in full costume and make-up for the race.

Registration begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday after Hallow Fest.

You can register up until 15 minutes before the race starts on Saturday.

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MINOCQUA - The Minocqua Town Board always knew it would need to replace Supervisor Bryan Jennings eventually.  But the board didn't think it happen so soon.

Jennings died September 8, two days after he was struck by lightning while walking his dog.

Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim says the town is now accepting letters of interest from anyone wanting to fill Jennings' seat.

Hartzheim wanted to wait until January to start looking, but the board was having trouble getting enough members for official town votes.  Hartzheim says he hoped to get through budget season and the holidays, but couldn't wait any longer.

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RHINELANDER - With a little over two weeks before the presidential election, local officials continue to campaign for their pick for President of the United States.

Wisconsin's former Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton visited Rhinelander Saturday to show her support for Hillary Clinton.

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WAUSAU - Enthusiasm, excitement and surprises continue to pack the 2016 election season.

 Republican politicians in Wisconsin still have something to add to this election.  

On Sunday Governor Scott Walker, Senator Ron Johnson and Representative Sean Duffy all stopped by the Wisconsin GOP office. 

They came together to encourage voters to get out and vote early. 

About 30 people came out to hear what the politicians had to say.

"We need to convince people who maybe we don't know where their opinions are in terms of election," said Governor Walker.

 "But we work with them, we live next to them, we go to church with them those are the people we need to reach out [to]."

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RHINELANDER - We all have Tylenol and other medicines in our cabinets at home, but what do you do with them when they expire?

Saturday, local officials helped people properly dispose of those unwanted medicines as part of Wisconsin's Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

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BOULDER JUNCTION - Nearby Fire Departments often rely on each other when they need extra man power. 

On Saturday firefighters from around the Northwoods came together as one. 
"It's vital to have that community bond between the fire departments," said Arbor Vitae Fire and Rescue Chief Mike VanMeter.

The bond between local departments led to a rare training opportunity. 

"Being able to share an opportunity like this is vital," said Boulder Junction Fire Department Chief Matthew Reuss. 

A donated house in Boulder Junction was lit on fire so that the fire departments could practice structure training.  

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MINOCQUA - Every year thousands of kids go hungry. 

On Saturday nearly 600 volunteers from the Northwoods decided to help feed some of those children. 

The "Food for Kidz" organization, invited people to Lakeland Union High School, to help package non- perishable goods.

 The packages will be donated worldwide and to nearby food pantries.

Within the past eight years volunteers have packaged one million meals.

 Last year was the first year the organization started donating to local food pantries. 

This year volunteers will give 30,000 meals to the Northwoods community.

"It's just the recurring exuberance of the people that come in and do the packing we have many, repeat people that come year after year," said "Food for Kidz" Co-chairman John Breiten. 

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