BAY CITY, Michigan – Bacigalupo is not Italian for swimming.
But around Bay City, it’s almost synonymous.
For nearly 50 years, the Bacigalupo brood has been a driving force in the local swimming community. As swimmers and divers, coaches and instructors, one Bacigalupo after another built on the family’s swimming heritage.
So many wonder what Owen Bacigalupo is doing playing basketball in the Bay City Western gymnasium this season when there’s a really good pool just around the corner.
“Swimming wasn’t my thing,” he said. “I can stay afloat and I can get from point A to point B, but not very quickly. I’m not made for water.
Those almost blasphemous words ring surprisingly true for the latest Bacigalupo to make a splash on the local sports scene. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound eldest is one of the best scorers and rebounders on the West basketball team.
He also recently signed to play Division II college football at Davenport University next season after a great fall campaign on the West grid. He is a tight end and a standout defensive end.
He is not a swimmer.
“Although I think Owen would sink because he’s so big and full of muscle mass, he’d probably be a great swimmer,” West basketball coach DeMario Walker said. “It’s in his DNA.”
Of this, there is no doubt. During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s there was a steady stream of Bacigalupo swimmers tearing up the water as Janet, Andy, Mike, Brian, Tony and Betsy created a family tradition while competing at TL Handy and John Glenn .
Many of them continued to proliferate the family profile as coaches, including Janet – now Janet Beattie – as the region’s most prominent diving guru and Owen’s father, Tony, as head coach to John Glenn for 15 years.
The next generation seemed no different as Janet’s sons Matthew and Andrew Beattie, Mike’s son Zachary and Brian’s son Carter were all excellent swimmers. Andy’s sons, Tyler and Thomas, and daughter Sophia are the current swimming sensations at Midland Dow.
And while Owen grew up alongside his cousins, he didn’t follow them into the swimming arena.
“You look at them side by side and you’re like, ‘Boy, they’d make a fantastic relay team,'” Tony said.
“It was kind of the assumption (Owen would get into swimming). And I guess it was everyone’s assumption because we often got this question, ‘When can we get him started?’ When can we get him listed?It just never happened.
Owen and his big sister Mia grew up around water. The family has always had a pool in their backyard and they have spent many summer vacations playing in the waves of Lake Michigan.
“They were exposed to water very early on,” Tony said. “When they were just babies, they were bouncing around in the backyard pool every summer, all summer. They just naturally, organically learned to swim.
“Owen is an excellent backyard swimmer. He has a great technique.
But neither went the swimming route. Mia emerged as a soccer star at Western and is currently a junior on the Alma College women’s soccer team. Owen started with football and baseball before moving on to football and basketball.
Tony and his wife Jena never saw the need to steer their children towards swimming because they were so passionate about other sports. The older they grew, the more they prospered – and the less likely they were to be drawn to the sport that dominates the family resume.
“I might have done it for a day,” Owen recalled. “I think I went to practice with my aunt and decided it wasn’t for me. I started strong then ran out of gas halfway through. I was done. “
Time and effort were no obstacle for Owen in his chosen sport. His trainers consider him a tireless worker, especially in the weight room which helped him grow from a 5-foot-9, 160-pound freshman to a 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior.
“Owen would rather lift weights, play football and basketball – and lift weights and lift weights – than swim. How can you blame the kid when he’s squatting around 405-415 (pounds)? said Walker, the third-year basketball head coach who also attends football. “He might not want to wear Speedos, but when he squats so much he might want to show off his legs.”
Owen was part of the core West football team that had a breakthrough season in the fall. He was a Saginaw Valley League First Team and MLive Bay City Dream Team selection on defense as the Warriors posted their best season in 13 years. His pick of six against rivals Bay City Central was one of the standout moments of the season.
“In my group of friends, we all had the same goals and ideas about what we wanted for the football season,” he said. “So we all put in a lot of time and it paid off.
“For a few years, Western was the laughingstock of the Valley. It’s something you don’t want to be a part of and it’s something you want to change. Last year was a good springboard for what the program could become.
On the basketball court, he is the team’s primary post presence, using his large frame to patrol the paint and smash the boards. He and the Warriors made progress in the latter part of the season, playing their best ahead of Wednesday’s district game against Mount Pleasant.
So while his cousins venture to the national swimming finals next weekend, Owen is a Bacigalupo with other plans.
“I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now. I wouldn’t say I have any regrets,” he said. “I have great family members who carry on this family swimming legacy. But I’m happy to do something different and make a name for myself.
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