HAMMOND | Mike Kaminski dutifully goes about his responsibilities as a high school swimmer every day in practices and meets.
The long and tiring regimen is shared with teammates and coaches whom Kaminski calls "his brothers and sisters."
And despite a disability that could cause others to shy away from sports in general, Kaminski isn't afraid to jump right in the pool and push others to swim better and work harder.
Kaminski is moderately mentally handicapped and attends special needs classes at Hammond High School. However, the senior has emerged as one of the strongest swimmers for the Wildcats.
"I love to swim," Kaminski said. "Swimming is really fun. Butterfly is really hard, but I'm getting used to it."
Kaminski never took swimming lessons. He learned how to swim in eighth grade and joined Hammond's boys swimming team the next year.
"I think he's done very well, with all things considered," Hammond coach Sue Ann Mathewson said. "He's one of my better swimmers because he's been around so long. He's learned from the kids that were older than him. They kind of mentored him and brought him along. He's been able to hold his own and do quite well."
Mathewson said teaching Kaminski the sport was no more difficult than any of her other kids on the team. At the urban school, Mathewson sometimes has to teach her athletes simply how to swim, as they've never been shown the sport before.
"From day one, he jumped in and was ready to go," Mathewson said. "I didn't have to teach him how to swim. He already knew most of the strokes. He's been a (good) addition to our team, and it's been good to have him. He's kind of the leader of the lanes. He's faster than the others in the lane. He always knows the distance that we're doing."
Kaminski, who swims the 50 free, 100 free and relays, is an inspiration to other teammates. Sophomore Gerardo Lemus and the other boys on the team interact well with Kaminski and treat him as one of their own.
"Knowing he has (a disability), it makes me surprised he is willing to still swim," Lemus said. "It motivates me to swim, too. He's a good friend. He's a very good swimmer."
Outside of swimming, Kaminski is still able to carry out daily tasks. Mathewson gave him a ride home once after a practice, but Kaminski had to stop at CVS to pick up a prescription for his grandmother, Beverly.
"He knew where to go and how to do it," Mathewson said. "I was a little worried about him going in by himself, but he did it, and it was amazing. He amazes me."