"It was pretty tough to watch," said Auburn women gymnastics coach Jeff Graba afterward. That may be an understatement. He was referring to the gruesome injuries suffered by senior Samantha Cerio during competition Friday night. Just after her floor routine began, she landed badly after a flip, breaking both legs and dislocating both knees, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Medical staff from both teams rushed to her as the arena fell silent. Spectators later rose in a standing ovation as they carried her away in air casts. "She’s a trooper," said Graba of the 22-year-old. "The last thing she said was, 'Go help the girls.'" Related:
- Moving on: "Friday night was my final night as a gymnast," Cerio wrote in an Instagram post Sunday. "I couldn’t be prouder of the person that gymnastics has made me to become. ... It may not have ended the way I had planned, but nothing ever goes as planned." The good news: Cerio is an aerospace engineering who graduates in May and already has a job lined up at Boeing.
- What happened: The fall happened on what's known as a blind landing, in which the gymnast doesn't see the ground before coming down. The Washington Post explains that Cerio "sprinted across the mat, throwing herself into a series of dizzying flips. But as she opened up on the final flip, her feet seeking the floor, everything went wrong." When she landed, her legs buckled, and she topped backward onto the mat in agony. Yes, there is video, but it is obviously difficult to watch. It's here.
- Team's response: Senior Abby Milliet gathered her teammates after the injury, per AuburnTigers.com. "I circled everybody together and I said ... 'We're going to do what she would want us to do. ... Sam wouldn't want us to give up. She would fight harder.'" The team went on to post its second-highest score of the season, finishing in second place and advancing to the following night's Sweet Sixteen regional finals. However, the season ended there. "Emotionally spent," said coach Graba afterward, per the college website.
- About Cerio: She's been an All-SEC athlete the last two seasons, is the SEC's Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year, and is president of the Auburn Student-Athlete Advisory Council. "She represents athletics. She represents academics. She's the total package," Auburn president Steven Leath told auburntigers.com in a previous profile. "Sometimes you forget all that she does because she makes it look so easy." She'll be working on rockets at Boeing.
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