James Bockover-McCormick will swim at state for Hononegah this weekend, competing in the disability division.
"It was actually diagnosed at six months. Originally, my parents thought it was a neurological problem."
That's when James learned his eyesight would degenerate to total blindness. That didn't stop him from continuing a family tradition of swimming.
"My grandpa almost made it to the Olympics, I thought that was really cool, I wanted to be like my grandpa," James said.
His role model became his teacher at age four on a trip to Hawaii.
"He showed me the basics of the freestyle and after a little while, he let me go. I went three feet, and thought, oh, I did it!"
His first competitive meet was at age seven.
"My first ever meet was on my birthday and I thought, I'm going to win this because it's my birthday," James recalls.
Fast forward to the IHSA sectional in Byron - James had an entire crowd behind him as the Hononegah sophomore swam for state.
"It's amazing to have everyone around that's so supportive," Hononegah head boys swimming coach Christine Kuspa said. "When a pool gets loud when one individual is in the water over six, it says a lot about how amazing our swim community is in this area."
Despite the needs for brightly colored signs in the water and a baton tapper for turning, James blends in among his teammates.
"We've got markers in that lane, but other than that, we sometimes have to watch the clock to tell him when to go, but he's one of us," says senior Dylan Anderson."
"This kid is blind. He's still swimming with such a positive attitude around. We love joking around with him. He's a great spirit to be around, I'll miss being a part of the team with him next year," senior Nate Fiorini said.
James will swim in four events in the disability division at state as the IHSA continues its inclusive initiative.
"For a kid to find something where they are part of something bigger and they don't feel like that'll stop them, is basically our goal," Kuspa said.
"Everyone is so supportive," James said. "They don't really look down on anyone, he's a normal swimmer, they're not like oh, he's a blind swimmer."
James Bockover-McCormick goes for gold this weekend, furthering his family's passion for the pool and with the roar of the fans ringing in his ears.