With more than 200,000 people expected to attend the U.S. Swim Trials, young fans are hopeful to have their turn in the competition one day.
Yes, they are on vacation to check out their favorite swimmers.
But as competitive swimmers, there is still work to be done.
"We need to train. Even if we're up here watching,” says Clare Culver, 15, from Des Moines. “We can't really take a week off. So it's really important we maintain our training."
At around 7:30 a.m. Thursday inside a YMCA in northwest Omaha, Mary Pat McMahon-Aiken keeps track of time while counting the laps her daughter does. The mother, an Omaha native, traveled from her home in northern California to bring Natalie Aiken, 10, to watch the trials.
Franky Ciummo, aquatic director for a YMCA, says trial swimmers practice side by side with fans – who turn from spectators inside the CenturyLink to beast mode in the pool in between race events.
"They want to come and watch the trials,” Ciummo says. “They're trial hopefuls themselves. They may be 12 or 14 years old, but they want to be here just as bad the next time it comes around.”
And when swimmers like Culver and Aiken cannot find the will to get up at 5 a.m. while on vacation, they remember why they came to Omaha. Between both girls, they say they admire swimmers from the “Big Four” – Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
"Sometimes, I just feel like I want to be one of the people and when I see them swim and I see what I can work on, I just try to do it in the pool,” says Aiken.
As Ciummo looks on, he says these hopefuls just need to keep one thing in mind.
"It's full-time, [a] hundred percent commitment. Every single day, you get in that pool,” he says. “It’s 5:30 in the morning and the pool is freezing – you get in it anyway."