RHINELANDER - Rhinelander's swim team has one member that has been there since the 1960s.
"Really we like to think of it as a symbol of our team," swimmer Cooper Kovac said.
The "It" is a wooden Hodag, which the team carries into meets, puts on the bench during practice and protects from rival Lakeland's attempt to steal it.
"At the GNC meet, they tried one last time to get a hold of the Hodag, but we were able to stop them before they got away with it," Cooper Kovac said.
The Hodag got an upgrade at the start of the season when Cooper's dad Frank fixed up the original figure and built a new cage to replace the one from the 1960s.
"I thought I'd give it a shot and see if I can update the Hodag and make it a little more fearsome," Frank Kovac said.
The new Hodag has had a front-row seat to one of Rhinelander's best seasons in program history. The team went undefeated in dual meets and easily won last Friday's GNC meet.
"It's just a blast," senior Nolan Francis said. "Everyone's super pumped."
Frank Kovac doesn't know anything about swimming, but he says he was happy to help in a different way.
"I'm glad that in my own little way I was able to contribute, and I hope the guys get a kick out of it.," Frank Kovac said.
Winning and the wooden Hodag are two Rhinelander swimming traditions that have remained for decades.
The Hodags will travel to Stevens Point this Saturday to compete in sectionals.
The state tournament is in Madison on Feb. 15 and 16.