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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Meet track and field’s odd couple

    Track sprinters Marcus Tyus, left, from Virginia, and Xuehan Xiong from China sit on a couch in their house. The two roommates barely talked their first two weeks, but said they have since become like family.
    Track sprinters Marcus Tyus, left, from Virginia, and Xuehan Xiong from China sit on a couch in their house. The two roommates barely talked their first two weeks, but said they have since become like family.

    As a transfer student two years ago, Marcus Tyus called the athletic department to find out who his roommate would be. The voice on the other end responded, “”I can’t even try to pronounce the name, let me spell it out for you.””

    Tyus, a sprinter on the men’s track and field team, was paired with Xuehan Xiong, an incoming freshman sprinter from Wuhan, China.

    When Tyus, originally from Virginia Commonwealth, first met Xuehan at their small room in Apache-Santa Cruz Residence Hall, Tyus thought to himself, “”Man, what have I got myself into?””

    Xuehan, whose full name is pronounced “”Shree-hung Zhung,”” had his own trepidations about his new roommate.

    “”The impression of a black man in China is a rapper, gangster or athlete,”” said Xuehan, who added that he thought Tyus would keep him awake at night by rapping.

    After two weeks of living together, during which Tyus said they barely talked, the two began to communicate and grow close.

    “”We started talking a little more, and I realized my roommate is pretty cool,”” Tyus said.

    Since then, the two have became good friends on and off the track. They are still roommates in their off-campus home, and they plan on living together next year as well.

    “”They are so much alike personalitywise that it’s really kinda eerie,”” said UA head coach Fred Harvey. “”They are two of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever met.””

    Added UA sprints and hurdles coach Dawn Boxley: “”We always joke that they’re twins.””

    Xuehan was born and raised in Wuhan, which is over 7,600 miles from Tyus’ hometown of Alexandria, Va. He describes Wuhan as “”the size of Tucson, but with 8 million people.””

    Xuehan had never been to the United States before he came to Arizona. He chose the school because UA associate head coach James Li recruited him after watching him perform on the Chinese National Team.

    Because Xuehan makes the 22-hour flight back home only for the summer, he stays with Tyus’ family in Alexandria during winter break.

    “”Me and Xuehan really are family,”” said Tyus, who has spent the past two Christmases with Xuehan. “”(My family) gets him better gifts than they get me.””

    Xuehan has an admittedly shy demeanor, but Tyus warns that it is a false front.

    “”The thing a lot of people don’t realize about Xuehan is that he talks more trash than anybody I know,”” said Tyus, who added that Xuehan’s English is not as limited as many people assume.

    Aside from running the 4×100-meter relay together, the two have also fought crime together.

    Tyus recalls shopping at a Wal-Mart with Xuehan when a man snatched a purse from a woman who was shopping with her child.

    “”I took off after him, I was chasing him, and Xuehan just stripped the bag out of the guy’s hands,”” Tyus said. “”Then I tackled him and the police came and arrested him.””

    Added Xuehan: “”It was good cooperation.””

    Still, Harvey and Boxley both said that getting the duo to focus can be quite challenging at times.

    “”They think that they know more than everyone else – Marcus will be the first one to tell you that – and they really don’t,”” Harvey said.

    “”I do think that every once in a while you’re gonna stray off a little bit and be off in your own world, but that’s life,”” Tyus said.

    Boxley said that coaching the two is “”a little scary at times,”” but added that overall she has enjoyed her experience with them.

    “”They always guarantee me that they will get the baton around,”” Boxley said. “”They’ve never failed me in that aspect.””

    The two ran with Antoine Cason and Troy Harris to record a season-best time of 40.27 seconds in the 4×100m at the March 31 Arizona International.

    Tyus and Xuehan also helped the 4×100m relay team upset ASU at the 2006 Arizona-ASU-NAU Dual Meet.

    Off the track, Tyus said there is no competition between the two in the classroom, but he uses Xuehan’s 4.0 grade point average to motivate himself.

    “”When you look at a kid coming all the way from China, who can come here and get a 4.0, why can’t you?”” Tyus said.

    In the summer, Tyus and Xuehan communicate via e-mail at least once a week. Tyus plans on visiting Xuehan in China either this summer or next.

    “”I know what he’s going through before he even says it. We’re almost always on the same page,”” Tyus said.

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