How do you tell twins James and Aaron Leow apart?
James has soggy socks, and Aaron's sometimes are sweaty.
The boys, who are seniors at Maumee High School, exude confidence, enough confidence to strut on stage in tights in public and to talk about their socks.
They crack wise; they are whip smart. They can sing and dance.
With God as their guide, they are involved in outreach efforts, and they care deeply about others.
You sort of want to pinch them to see if they would cry “ouch,” to see if they are for real.
But yep. They're real all right.
“Without question, they have the whole package,” said Ellen Bean Larabee, theater director at Maumee High School, where James, Aaron, and about 30 other cast members are in rehearsal for Kiss Me Kate, which is to be presented March 25, 26, 27, and 28.
In between memorizing lines for their lead parts, 17-year-old James and Aaron manage quite nicely to keep up their grades.
Sure, from time to time classmates chortle when one of them — egads! — gets a mere 98 percent on a test.
James is the Class of 2010 valedictorian with a 4.77 grade-point average on a weighted scale (with A's in honor classes getting 5 instead of 4 points) and Aaron is salutatorian with a 4.75 GPA.
On a straight 4.0 scale, they are tied for No. 1.
Now, back to their socks.
James says he has immersed himself in so many valuable life experiences, he has thrown himself into the water so many times, that his socks are soggy.
“I am always getting my feet wet. I will actively pursue situations I am not comfortable with,” he said in between rehearsing scenes at the school's Performing Arts Center.
Socks, sometimes streaked with sweat, have been part of Aaron's life for several years. He's a four-year member of the cross-country team and has been on the track team two years.
“I love my teammates. We have a ton of fun,” Aaron said.
Teammates talk about politics, philosophy, or old TV shows during practice runs. “That is part of what I love about running.”
In addition, Aaron is president of the National Honor Society and has been a worship leader at his church. He plays violin. He does volunteer work.
James' resume already is stacked with an impressive list of things he has done in his short life.
He's on the speech team and student council and served as a contemporary worship leader at the Church of the Cross. He's the children's activities coordinator for the Many Might Know Ministries conducted at area migrant camps.
And they both have this niceness factor going on.
Said sophomore Jessica Myers: “They're really smart, and they're really nice. They deserve to be first in their class. They work hard.”
Sophomores Kristin Gramza and Ashleigh Duncan-Lee, who have lead roles in Kiss Me Kate, said James and Aaron are the nicest guys in the school and are amazingly talented.
James and Aaron don't just walk into the prime roles of plays presented at the school.
“They both put a lot into their auditions. They prepare and show what they have got rather than assume what's there,” said the musical director.
Aaron gives credit to God for his dancing, acting, and other talents.
“I try to use everything I have to glorify God. That's how I am,” he said. “There is a purpose behind what I do, behind all of it.”
James and Aaron both have participated in mission trips that provided them with great opportunities to serve others and, as Aaron said, to see how the Holy Spirit is revealed in the love both given and received.
Both young men plan to incorporate mission work with their careers.
Aaron is considering an engineering major at the University of Cincinnati.
As an environmental engineer, for instance, he could help people get clean water following an earthquake, pointing out that there has been such a need in Haiti.
James is leaning toward a foreign language major or maybe a musical theater major, perhaps at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, or Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. He wouldn't mind a bit if he winds up on Broadway or on stage in Chicago or someplace in California.
His love for learning started in the first grade, he said, and it continues. “I love English, I love science, I love math.”
In 2002 the brothers shared the role of Oliver in a Maumee High Schoolmusical when they were in fourth grade.
In the eighth grade, the Leow brothers pretty much were pigeon-holed.
“I was the smart one. Aaron was the fast one,” James said, adding that since then, “there has been plenty of opportunity for competition.”
They are the younger brothers of sister Caitlin, 19, a student at Ohio State University.
Their father Warren Leow and stepmother Karen live in Toledo and their mother Michelle Leow-Klinger and stepfather Eric Klinger reside in Maumee.
Aaron and James, in brotherly-love style, banter back and forth, and sometimes argue, much to the glee of their classmates.
Don't misunderstand. Many students are big fans of the brothers; it's just that the competitive nature of the Leows triggers a “sensational” or “scandalous” reaction from teens.
“A lot of times we have bickering arguments. People love to get us going or to get us to argue,” James said.
It's more provocative, he said, if people think the brothers are at each other's throat.
Added Aaron: “When we discuss things, others think we are arguing. People like to see us pinned against each other, but we like each other too much to let anything get to us.
“The way we look at it, we would take a bullet for each other. That is not likely to happen in this neighborhood, but that is kind of what we have between us, and that is really cool.”