13-year old Cameron Poole's journey as a swimmer was not a smooth one, but you'd never know when you watch him glide through the water.
"I don't see anything different about it honestly, we're all swimming. Water's the same no matter what."
Watching a McGuire Aquatic Club meet at Boylan, Cameron Poole is just another important member of the team.
"You can't differentiate between him and any other swimmer. He just looks like a bobbing head in the water, moving back and forth doing a great job," says head coach and club founder Brian McGuire.
Cameron was born with spina bifida, a spinal cord defect that required surgery two days after he was born. That didn't stop him from exploring the world around him.
"If I like something someone else can do, I was just like, oh, I'll do it that way instead."
At six years old, he found his home outside of his wheelchair. It's a space that, in an ironic twist of fate, takes after his namesake - the swimming pool.
"The doctors said I wouldn't be able to swim, but my parents wanted me to know how to swim, that way if I was by the pool and fell in, I was able to swim. I started swim lessons and it took off from there," Poole said.
Paralyzed from the waist down, Cameron went to work on adapting to the water.
"He has great body control, good balance. He has good technique, it keeps him in line," says McGuire. "His body positioning in the water makes him work through it effortlessly. He's done a lot of work, he's got great core. He uses the muscles he has and very effectively."
He has made a profound impact on the rest of his club swim team, from the beginners to the experts.
"Honestly it makes me speechless to watch him swim, it's so cool to see him," says McGuire Aquatic Club swimmer and Belvidere North graduate Abby Hawkes. "He does motivate the rest of the team as well. He's such an asset to our team and he's brought a lot of good things."
Cameron is still learning the tricks of the trade, but he's just around the corner from competing at the high school level.
"He takes the constructive criticism so well and he really uses it to the best of his ability and it's so cool to see that," says Hawkes.
"The IHSA now has a disability category at the state series. He's able to experience all the great things we have to offer," McGuire added.
That kind of inclusion for the sport is becoming the norm. As Cameron said himself, the water's the same no matter what.
"Swimming is a great equalizer," says McGuire. "There is no cookie cutter. Kids can come in with all different abilities and assets and become good swimmers and good teammates."
That's just what Cameron is - a good swimmer, but also a grateful teammate.
"I'm extremely proud to be part of this," says Poole. "Especially with all the assistance and help from random people. How willing and generous they are to help somebody like me through swimming or whatever it is."
For Cameron, adversity is like his next race. Difficult at first glance, physical in execution, and rewarding when the doubters are silenced again.