Home Sports Auburn gymnast sustains gruesome leg injuries at NCAA Regionals

Auburn gymnast sustains gruesome leg injuries at NCAA Regionals

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Senior Auburn gymnast Abby Milliet circled up her teammates.

The NCAA Regional Semifinal in Baton Rouge was halfway over and one of their fellow Tigers was screaming in agony on the floor.

Senior Samantha Cerio severely injured both of her legs on her first pass as Auburn’s floor exercise anchor. Cerio’s routine uses a handspring double front on that pass, which requires a blind landing.

“‘Y’all. I know we want to feel sad for Sam right now, but this is not what she would have wanted,'” Milliet recalls telling her teammates. “Sam has put everything into this and she’s going to want us to give everything. This is our new fire.”

Auburn’s coach Jeff Graba has coached the Tigers for nine seasons and has been coaching gymnastics since the 1980s. He said he’d never seen an injury like Cerio’s, adding that he felt lucky that LSU has a first-rate medical staff to take care of her.



Graba wasn’t at liberty to discuss the extent of Cerio’s injuries, but sources with preliminary knowledge of the injuries said Cerio dislocated both of her knees and broke both of her legs. Cerio, who had aircasts on both legs as she exited the arena, received a standing ovation as medical staff escorted her stretcher off the floor.

“It was pretty tough to watch,” Graba said. “She’s a trooper. The last thing she said was, ‘Go help the girls.’ The girls rallied around her. They’re doing this for her right now.”

He added: “I gave her a hug, told her I hugged her before she left and said we’d catch back up tonight.”

LSU’s Ruby Harrold said that the Bayou Bengals said a prayer for Cerio in that moment before refocusing onto their next events.




“It was really upsetting,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said of Cerio’s injuries, noting that she didn’t see it happen in the moment. “I saw the look on (our team doctor’s) face and he ran across the floor with lightning speed.”

Cerio earned All-SEC awards in 2017 and 2018, and landed on the All-SEC freshman team in 2016. She’s an aerospace engineering major who, upon her graduation in May, has accepted a job to work for Boeing in Seattle.

The kicker for Graba was how Cerio executed the skill well, coming in slightly too high. Cerio reached for the ground a little too early, Graba said.

Graba wanted to make sure his team stayed focused through Auburn’s last two rotations, fearing that if someone else lost their focus, they could be prone to sustaining an injury as well.



The Tigers remained focused, scoring a 49.350 on vault and a 49.350 on bars to close out the meet. Auburn’s overall score of 197.075 was the second-highest for the Tigers all season. That mark was good enough to advance into Saturday’s Regional Final against LSU, Minnesota and Utah.

“We weathered some adversity,” Graba said. “I think we’re a really good team. All that did was prove it. That was our second-highest score of the year and we did it with 16 judges on the floor. We really feel we’re a quality team and we belong in the Sweet Sixteen. Now we have an opportunity to compete in it.”

In addition to the team’s success, freshman Derrian Gobourne tied with Minnesota’s Ona Loper to take the vault title.



Auburn, LSU, Minnesota and Utah compete in the NCAA Regional Final on Saturday at 7 p.m. The top two teams advance to the NCAA Championships on April 19-20 in Fort Worth, Texas.

 

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Friday night was my final night as a gymnast. After 18 years I am hanging up my grips and leaving the chalk behind. I couldn’t be prouder of the person that gymnastics has made me to become. It’s taught me hard work, humility, integrity, and dedication, just to name a few. It’s given me challenges and road blocks that I would have never imagined that has tested who I am as a person. It may not have ended the way I had planned, but nothing ever goes as planned. Thank you Auburn family for giving me a home and a chance to continue doing the sport that will always be my first love. I am honored to have had the privilege to represent the navy and orange AU for the past 4 years with my team by my side. Thank you for letting me share my passion with you. Thank you for letting me be a part of something bigger than myself. War Eagle Always

A post shared by Sam Cerio (@sam_cerio) on

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