The Rio Olympics begin two weeks from Friday and a local club swim team got a taste of what it's like to prepare for the world stage.
The Rockford Marlins practice at Flinn Middle School, who are continuing a tradition that stretches back decades in the Forest City.
"It's the oldest competitive swimming team, USA swimming team. It's our 53rd year in existence," says head coach Nichole Gaines. "We keep growing and getting better every year."
Swimmers of both genders and all ages are hard at work, including one rising high school freshman who's taking the torch from family.
"I've always loved the water, even from a really young age," says Lauren Shields, a rising Boylan freshman. "My dad and all of my dad's side all swam for the Marlins, so why not give it a shot."
The Marlins offer an open-door policy for anyone interested in joining the club. It's an exciting opportunity for those that are new to the sport.
"It's pretty awesome to improve my skills right here at home," says rising Thurgood Marshall seventh grader Isaiah Taylor. "I don't have to go anywhere far away."
Training isn't limited to the water - these swimmers work on dry land, too.
"It's just basically getting them strength and conditioning that they don't get in the pool," says Marlins coach and trainer Jeremiah Box. "Swimmers work different muscles. Not a lot of time they work on strength and conditioning outside of the pool. That's what I'm doing, getting them stronger, getting their muscles stronger and aspects they don't work on everyday."
Swimming is about to take the spotlight with the Summer Olympics right around the corner. The Marlins made a special trip to Omaha, Nebraska for the United States trials.
"It was really cool and we did two clinics with former Olympians which was really cool," says Marlins swimmer Brooke Franklin.
It was an inspiring experience for everyone in attendance.
"I really want to become an Olympic swimmer and represent my country," says Marlins swimmer Sutton Gaines. "I know I just have to push through it and just keep going."
"The look on the kids' faces was almost better than watching the event itself," says Marlins club president David Franklin. "They were in awe, absolutely. When they saw their idols walking through the hallways there, it was a really uplifting experience for the whole club."
Celebrating the present and preparing for the future - the Rockford Marlins have been a fixture in our community as they continue to grow a sport their athletes can enjoy for life.