Alex “Pugsley” Obuchowski – Class of 2000
While it has almost been a week since William & Mary cut 7 Division 1 Varsity Sports, including the Men’s & Women’s swimming teams, the anger and pain are still ever-present. This is a chance for me to show how Tribe Swimming & Diving helped shape my life!
My involvement with Tribe Swimming & Diving began in the fall of 1995, my senior year of high school, with a recruiting trip to W&M. I knew that I wanted to stay in Virginia for college, and visited several colleges. From the moment I stepped onto campus and met the other recruits, and began meeting the team, I knew this was going to be the place for me! There was just a feeling about the team! While not the fastest in the conference, the personalities, the coaches, and just the overall feeling was PERFECT! I knew it was going to be my team, my teammates and friends and where I spent the next 4 years! I met my freshman college roommate on that trip, along with others who would join the swim team and we are now 25 years into our friendships. While we may not see each other that often, we know we are only a phone call or a text away!
As the Men’s Class of 2000 came onto campus in the fall of 1996, we covered all strokes and distances, and looked to be a group that could help bolster the current team that was already on campus. We may have been a little cocky, but the current team made sure to put us in our place! We were comprised of Chris Robinson (W&M Athletics Hall of Fame Member) as our middle & distance freestyler, Michael Lovett (our sprint freestyler, who we could always count on to close the gap and win a relay as the anchor leg!), Daniel Mee (our backstroke wonder), Dan Gowetski (our breaststroke superstar) and myself, as a butterfly and distance freestyler. There was an equally strong Women’s Class of 2000 who arrived on campus as well!
Within two weeks of my arrival on campus, Kyle Ahlgren, one of our captains, came up to me at a party, and gave me the nickname, Pugsley, which has stuck with me to this day! It was often a joke when our coach, Ned Skinner, would put all of the names on the white board, who was swimming in each group, and people would see my real name, and not know who this “Alex Obuchowski” character was, since everyone knew me as Pugsley. My parents affectionately became known as Mr. & Mrs. Pugsley, people wondering why someone would name their kid Pugsley. My W&M warmups, as noted in the picture below, had Pugsley listed, where everyone else had their last name.
Tribe Swimming & Diving is not just about the student-athletes, it is about FAMILY, which meant our parents, our teammate’s parents, and relationships were built throughout a large community! My parents still talk to other of my teammate’s parents, and I have often visited and still have relationships with those parents, siblings and full families!
During my swimming tenure at W&M, I had highs and lows, on occasion thinking about quitting, but I never did, and I persevered through thick and thin, mostly because of my teammates and coaches and the support they provided me. I was entrusted during my freshman year with the duties of the towel cheer. As any W&M current or former swimmer knows, this is a tradition that hypes up the team leading into the meet, or coming out of a break. I spent so much time doing the Towel Cheer during my tenure, 11 years after I graduated, at my wedding, unbeknownst to me, my teammates had procured a towel, gathered around me, handed me the towel and I ran in full tuxedo to the dance floor, had the DJ cut the music off, and to the cheers of my teammates and the bewilderment of the guests that were unaware of my Towel Cheers from college, they were a little confused, all of a sudden, the spelling of T-R-I-B-E was completed! While this did not include a jump into the pool, it was an amazing moment in my life, and would not have happened without my time as a Tribe Swimmer! While the Rec Center has significantly fewer walls that can be pounded on during the Tribe’s arrival to the pool, during our tenure, the whole team was pounding on those walls, and the noise could be heard all around, and people had no idea where the noise was coming from! I CAN IMAGINE EVERY SWIMMER & PARENT smiling right now, hearing the sound of kickboards on the blocks and the wall being pounded on in concert! To think this will never happen again for TRIBE SWIMMING is devastating!
William & Mary Swimming afforded me the opportunity to experience Division 1 College Swimming! During my time, with the ups and downs, we had coaching changes, teammates leave, teammates join, but we were ALWAYS A FAMILY! I also didn’t just know my teammates, I continue to watch the current team, whether at CAA’s or just watching the times that the teams put up at all of their meets. Meeting the current teams as I returned at Homecoming was so much fun, and it was nice to put names to faces, and just expand my network of Tribe swimmers.
Knowing that the current swimmers and potential future Tribe swimmers will not be afforded the same opportunities breaks my heart! I have lifelong friends, whose weddings we have attended, and we have unfortunately attended funerals for teammates we have lost. Tribe roots run deep, and to have a chainsaw taken to those roots in an instant hurts deep down! WE WILL NOT REST! WE WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR TRIBE SWIMMING & DIVING!