Cruz’n together

Twins run in the Cruz family. Xionali (left) and Zolarys Cruz are the 12th set.

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Zolarys and Xionali Cruz are identical twins who share just about everything, including the same sport. As sophomores at Northeast High School (NEHI), they joined the swim team. Three years later, coaches and fans still struggled to differentiate the two. It got to a point where their mother had to put them in different colors; if one sister would wear blue while the other would wear pink.

Even though they are twins, they are quite different and excellent at different subjects. One sister loves writing and history while the other geeks out at math and science.

“Being a twin can be frustrating, but mainly funny as even some of our family members can’t tell us apart,” said Zolary. “We were always in the same sports and clubs, and the majority of the time, the only person who could tell us apart was our mom.”

Being students at NEHI was hilarious for the two, as only three teachers could tell them apart. Their parents would always giggle at the silent teachers as they attempted to figure out who was who. One time during a swim meet this year, the sisters exchanged events. No one noticed the difference.

Earlier this month, the community took notice as the Cruz twins marched across the stage in Tropicana Field as graduates of NEHI. They will both be headed to St. Leo University in Dade City to study international business in August.

The Cruz twins are deeply rooted in family traditions, which motivates them to achieve. Their parents were born and raised in the Big Apple, and their grandmother was born and raised in Puerto Rico. They have family in Spain, Texas, Puerto Rico, New York, Florida, and other states as well.

“Before COVID, we use to cruise with each other. I’ve always been attracted to the water,” said Xionali. “I love snorkeling when on cruises as I can see eels, squid, fish, and sometimes sharks, but from a far distance.”

In the family, there is an older brother, a younger sister, who is now a freshman in NEHI, and a younger brother who is in kindergarten. The older siblings would make a game of who could get the highest grade-point average for each grading period and compare at the end of the school year.  The winner would be compensated, and lack of productivity would be dealt with. Being active in extracurricular sports and clubs meant extra incentives.

“I had fun being in competition with my siblings and being a Viking as well. Although we no longer have academic competitions, we have family fun day,” said Zolarys.

Family fun day for the Cruz bunch is where no one has access to phones. Everyone engages in family togetherness, including three-legged races, baseball, kickball, football, and other activities. The two have learned that a strong family is essential, and they encourage one another.

“I currently have a scholarship that my sister doesn’t have, and I’m rooting for her to get the scholarship we just applied for,” said Xionali.

The Cruz twins are ready to travel the world. First to St. Leo University and then to study abroad. The expectations are high, but they love a challenge and are prepared to take on college life — and then the world.

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