'Double X' Doubles Up

May 11, 2009

by Jeremy Hawkes, Arizona Athletic Media Relations

For a collegiate student at any university across the country, the ability to arrive on campus the first day and maintain a high level of academic achievement on the way to graduating with a 4.0 GPA is uncommon.

For that student to do so after arriving in this country for the first time just four years ago is a rarity.

If that student - who has only been in the United States for four years - also happens to perform that well in the classroom and also competes at a high level for a Division I-A athletic program...well, that's practically unheard of.

Xuehan Xiong is a senior on the UA men's track and field team and will be graduating this month with a B.S. in computer sciences. He will finish with a perfect 4.0 grade point average and earn Summa Cum Laude accolades from the UA's College of Science, just a few more honors to go along with the multitude he has earned during his career as a Wildcat.

Xiong arrived on campus four years ago after an impressive junior career in Wuhan, China, at the Hangzhou Normal University. He competed for the Chinese junior national team at the 2004 Asian Junior Championships where his 4-x-100-meter relay team finished third. Xiong was also the Chinese junior national champion in the 200-meters.

His impressive performance attracted the attention of UA associate head coach James Li, who was coaching distance runners in China. Li spoke to Xiong's parents and his coach and then discussed some options with Wildcat head coach Fred Harvey.

Harvey liked the raw talent he saw from Xiong in his impressive junior times and offered him part of a scholarship to come to Arizona. Xiong didn't give it a second thought.

'I wanted to come to the United States because it offered the best higher education and best intercollegiate track and field programs in the world,' he said. 'I told my dad as soon as I got the offer that I wanted to come here for a better future in study and running.'

Xiong's arrival in Tucson gave the Wildcats a competent runner and a scholar-athlete like few others in the nation, as demonstrated by his ever-growing list of academic achievements.

Xiong has twice earned first-team Pac-10 all-Academic honors and will likely tally a third as his senior season comes to a close. He has been placed on the Mount Pacific Sports Federation all-Academic first team three times and is a United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association Academic All-American as well.

Last season, Xiong was named to ESPN The Magazine's first team Academic All-American team and the College Sports Information Directors of America's all-District VIII men's track & field/cross country team.

If that wasn't enough, he was named by the UA Athletic Department as the co-valedictorian of the 2009 senior class.

But Xiong isn't just a scholar, he is still a scholar-athlete and his performance on the track has been almost as impressive as his performance in the classroom.

As a sophomore in 2007, Xiong helped guide the UA men's 4-x-100-meter men's relay team to an NCAA championship performance, where the team earned All-American honors. In 2008, Xiong came back as one of three returning performers from the All-America team to lead the squad back to another NCAA championship appearance.

To date in 2009, the 4-x-100-meter squad has already qualified for the NCAA West Regional where Xiong hopes to lead them to a third consecutive NCAA championship appearance.

Xiong has consistently been a top sprinter for the team, earning an NCAA West Regional qualification in the 200 meters in 2008 and 2009. He narrowly missed qualifying for the finals at the 2009 Mount Pacific Sports Federation indoor championships earlier this season.

'It's remarkable for him to keep up that high level of achievement (in the classroom) and to train at the level that we do,' said UA head coach Fred Harvey. 'But I don't think he has reached the potential he's capable of because that kind of balance takes a lot out of him.'

Xiong admits that it is pretty stressful, but that doesn't keep him from working hard. He thanks his parents for instilling such a work ethic.

'When I think about how hard my parents worked in China to pay for my first two years of tuition and living costs here, there is no doubt in my heart that I would never waste a cent of their money,' he said. 'I just do the best to reach my potential.'

It seems that Xiong has just started to tap into that potential in the classroom. He was recently accepted into the prestigious Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. He plans to research on autonomous vehicles and humanoid robots.

Xiong leaves behind a legacy as one of UA's finest scholar-athletes. By overcoming vast cultural differences and performing at such a high level both in and out of the classroom, he has shown just how far hard work and perseverance can push someone. His impact on the team is one that Harvey feels is indispensable.

'He is a really interesting man to have on the team,' Harvey said. 'To have a young man like that with all the cultural insights he's brought from China has been a positive learning experience for everyone - including me - on this team.'

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