RHINELANDER - When Rhinelander basketball tips off its season next week, the Hodags will have one specific goal in mind.
"To be able to go back and win conference after losing last year would definitely be a goal," said senior Owen White.
Not winning the Great Northern Conference last year snapped Rhinelander's streak of four conference titles in a row. Hodags head coach Derek Lemmens puts that responsibility on himself.
"Myself, especially, really got caught up on the drive for five," Lemmens said. "We really talked about that, and I think as a staff, I lost focus of the process."
Part of that process includes starting off the season against stiff competition. Rhinelander will begin the year with a difficult non-conference game against Stevens Point.
"We want to do the things that doesn't make us look good but makes us good," said Lemmens. "So playing those types of teams, we feel like is the way to do that."
Another way for the Hodags to be good is to get the ball to White. The senior forward was named GNC player of the year two years ago before earning a spot on the first all-conference team last season. But he says he's not worried about personal awards.
"If we win conference then, yeah, it would be nice to also get the player of the year," said White. "But that's definitely not the main goal. The main goal is to win conference, and we'll see what happens from there."
White hopes more playoff success is part of what happens from there.
"This year if we could win a regional championship, that would be huge for all of us," said White.
Lemmens says he will lean on White and the other seven returning seniors to make that happen.
"When we have that kind of experience, it really creates more coaches on the floor, and when guys hear from other players, it sticks a little better, so having that many leaders and that many upperclassmen is beneficial in that way," said Lemmens.
Combining that experience with ability on the floor has the Hodags feeling pretty good.
"I really have a lot of confidence in our team this year. I think we'll be first," said senior Brad Comer. "I think we will. I am being confident."
MERRILL - Trinity Lutheran School in Merrill doesn't have room for any more kindergarten students next year.
Its class is already full, partly because some families can send their kids to Trinity for free.
For the third straight year, Trinity will participate in Wisconsin's private school choice program.
This year, the state pays tuition for about 30 of Trinity's 120 total students.
"Parents like the Christian base, obviously. That's the main reason people send [their kids] here," said School Administrator Kathy Yahr. "They're keeping them here more now because of the opportunities that we offer."
NORTHWOODS - Lakes and nature bring people from all over the country to the Northwoods during the summer. Those same attractions get some people to stay here. Home sales and home prices in the Northwoods went up in 2017.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association reports about 1,300 more homes sold last year than in 2016 in Wisconsin. A local broker saw the increase firsthand.
"The markets that are going crazy right now are premium homes. The Minocqua chain is red hot, the Eagle River chain is pretty hot the Three Lakes chain is pretty hot and there are some chains of lakes that are less hot," said Coldwell Banker broker Jim Mulleady.
HAYWARD - Trail conditions for this year's American Birkebeiner race will be just about perfect.
Executive Director Ben Popp said there's about a six inch base, three inches of snow on top, and more snow on the way in the Hayward area.
"The energy right now is just unreal. You can feel it here in Hayward and Cable and certainly around the world. Now with a gold medal, Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall, brings more excitement to not only this event, but the sport. So it's a really great time to be a cross country skier," said Popp.
MILWAUKEE - A Wausau-based company that makes architectural metal finishing took home a big honor Thursday night. Linetec won the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce's Manufacturer of the Year Award in the Large Company category.
The annual awards program celebrates Wisconsin companies that are well respected, serve their communities, and make Wisconsin "a better place to live, work, and play", according to a press release from the WMC.
MINOCQUA - A Lakeland Union High School student could face punishment for putting a shooting threat in a bathroom last week.
According to a press release, the Minocqua Police Department believes the girl officers talked to today is likely the person who left graffiti referencing the Parkland, Florida school shooting in an LUHS girls' bathroom on Thursday.
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