Hurdling into a new world
April 16, 2014 at 8:03 p.m.
Updated April 15, 2014 at 11:16 p.m.
SEALY - Xiaoxing He used to help Yoakum coach David Markert put the hurdles out on the track.
Markert suggested Xiaoxing start running the hurdles and predicted the sixth-grader would someday win a district championship in the event.
"I didn't like who he was hanging out with, and I didn't want him to get in trouble," Markert said. "I got him to start running the hurdles and told him he would win the district championship here in Yoakum."
Markert's prediction was right on the mark. He just didn't realize Xiaoxing would do it as a senior wearing the green and white uniform of the Cuero Gobblers.
"Coach Markert told me you're going to win district one day," Xiaoxing said.
"Last week was a dream come true to win district in Yoakum."
On Wednesday at Tiger Stadium, Xiaoxing added a gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles in the District 25/26-3A area meet to his District 26-3A title.
He had a time of 15.58 seconds running into a stiff wind and qualified for the Region IV-3A meet scheduled for April 25-26 at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
The gold medals are a highlight of the amazing journey Xiaoxing has been on since coming to the United States from Ganzhou, China, in 2006.
"My uncle was Vietnamese," Xiaoxing explained. "He came over during the war. He married my aunt, and she brought the family here. It was a blessing."
Xiaoxing didn't speak a word of English when he arrived in Yoakum. He moved to Cuero a year later when the family closed the restaurant it ran.
"It took me three to four years to learn to speak English," he said. "It was a slow process. Right now, I'm starting to pick up some vocabulary words and stuff."
Xiaoxing also had to assimilate into the local culture. He came from a city of 9 million people to a much different setting.
"There was a lot less population," he said. "Everybody drives here, and where I used to live, we would ride a bike to school and walk to school or run to school."
Xiaoxing has continued to run track, and Cuero coach Victor Mathis has enjoyed coaching him during his high school career.
"He blended in real good," Mathis said. "He spoke real good English. He's always been a good person to be around. It's been a good transition. I'm happy for him."
Mathis has been impressed with the progress Xiaoxing has made in the hurdles.
"Xiaoxing has been doing AAU since like the ninth grade, and I saw the improvement every year," Mathis said. "I saw the improvement in his technique and form, and everything has gotten a lot better. He works as hard in practice as he works in the meets."
Xiaoxing enjoys the competitive aspects of track and the friendships he forms with other runners.
"It's a lot of competition," he said. "I love to compete. I love to come out here with the guys out here. (Yoakum's) Karl Kaiser - I've been with him since I first came, and we've been going at it. We're good friends on the field, but when we step on the track, it's a totally different story."
Xiaoxing hopes to end his high school career at the state track meet. After he graduates, Xiaoxing, who turned 19 in March, will join the Air Force, but he has no plans to quit running track.
"I heard you can run track in the Air Force, and I want to do that," he said. "I think that will make me tougher as a person. I want to go in there and be the man that I always dreamed of."
• Yoakum's Celine Markert won the girls shot put, discus and 100-meter hurdles and will compete in all three events at the regional meet.
• Markert was the meet's high-point girls with 30.
• Cuero's Khouri Walker won the boys high jump, and El Campo's Devin Estrada won the boys 800-meter run.
• Wharton's Acacia Watson won the 200- and 400-meter dashes, Wharton's Brailyn Frances won the 100-meter dash, and the Lady Tigers won the 1,600-meter relay.
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588, by emailing him at mforman@firstname.lastname@example.org or comment at AdvoSports.com.