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Identical twins deal with experience of living apart

BY ANNE UIBLE
Daily Sports Writer
Published December 2, 2005

The X-Box is in Austin and the DVDs are in Ann Arbor.

Andrew Skidmore
Freshman Matt Patton split from his twin brother, Sean, to swim for the Wolverines this season. (JUSTIN BASS/Daily)

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When identical twins Matt and Sean Patton signed to swim for different schools, they knew going separate ways would be tougher than just losing half of their possessions.

With more than 1,300 miles between them, the two freshmen have been forced to learn to live without their other half.

"I took it for granted that Sean was always around," Matt said. "Now that he and I go to different schools, I realized how much we really did together."

This weekend at the Texas Invitational in Austin, the Patton boys will reunite for the first time since parting ways for college this summer.

Growing up in Matthews, N.C., they both began swimming at the age of five. When both showed interest and ability in the backstroke, they were forced to race against one another. But as they grew up, Matt became a better long distance swimmer while Sean continued to excel in the backstroke.

"We're really close," Patton said. "We've been best friends for our whole life and really fierce competitors in the pool. But we know how to leave the competition in the pool and still be friends."

Being forced to share a room for 17 years made the two inseparable both at home and elsewhere. Their favorite thing to do outside of swimming was play video games such as Halo and Madden.

"We both are really competitive with video games," Matt said. "The occasional controllers are thrown and then one of us will get mad and try and beat the other one up. After one of us is done beating the other, it switches and the other one gets mad and beat the other one up. It could go on for hours."

And even though the two spent a lot of time competing, they always had one thing in common - themselves.

"We shared the same clothes, friends and car," Matt said. "Basically, anywhere he went, I went."

The brothers had originally planned to attend the same college, but after a recruiting visit to Austin, Matt didn't feel Texas would be a good fit to pursue his long distance career.

"The recruiting process was difficult on my family because my parents wanted my brother and I to stay together," Matt said. "But I knew I had to come to Michigan and that I belonged here. And they didn't want me to choose somewhere I didn't want to go."

When Matt was first recruited by Michigan during his senior year of high school, he informed Michigan coach Bob Bowman that going to college with his brother was important to him.

"We took a big risk when we recruited Matt because we knew that he wanted to go to school with his brother, but we only recruited Matt and not Sean," Bowman said. "It made me a little nervous during the process because it could have gone badly for us and Matt could have picked Texas."

But Matt knew he had to come to Michigan, and he let his brother go his own direction. So, this summer the brothers had to say goodbye for the first time.

"It was really sad to say goodbye because it happened so fast," Matt said. "I woke up and said goodbye, and then I went back to bed. I got up later and I was all alone. It was weird."

Even with the distance between them, Matt and Sean have managed to stay in close contact with one another. They talk online every day and call each other two or three times a week.

"We've already talked a lot about the meet this weekend," Matt said. "We're swimming in two events against each other, and one is mine and the other is his better event, so it should be fun."

The Patton parents are planning on splitting time between wearing each twin's colors.

Mrs. Patton will wear Matt's colors on the first night of the meet and then she'll switch with Mr. Patton on the next night. When the meet is over, Matt and Sean plan on playing video games in Sean's dorm and doing some catching up.

No fighting allowed.


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