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'Consistently hit for the team' - Samantha Cerio leads off for Auburn gymnastics
Samantha Cerio says she enjoys being first in Auburn's rotation on floor and bars.
Jan. 26, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - Like a leadoff hitter in softball or baseball, sophomore Samantha Cerio sets the tone for her gymnastics teammates.

“I enjoy being the first up because I know I can consistently hit for the team,” said Cerio. “That’s someone we need to start out, and it can just get our team on a roll and start us off at a high note.”

A sophomore who made the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2016, Cerio leads off Auburn’s six-person rotation on bars and floor. She’s second in the beam lineup.

“She’s really moved herself in the last two months into an expectation on our part to put her in the first spot,” Auburn coach Jeff Graba said. “Her scoring potential, her presentation and her skill level is good enough to start us out.”

At Kentucky last week, Cerio scored a career best 9.85 on floor. With the top five scores counted in each event, a steady leadoff performer reduces the pressure on the gymnasts who follow.

“I’m excited because it gives us that much-needed, predictable depth,” Graba said. “The five girls after her are very comfortable knowing that she’s going to go out there and do that.”

Auburn’s depth will come into play this weekend when the Tigers compete in two meets against top five opponents in two states in three days.

Auburn faces No. 3 Florida Friday at 6 p.m. in Gainesville. On Sunday, the No. 16 Tigers compete against No. 5 Alabama in Birmingham in the third Elevate the Stage meet.

“To me, it’s a good challenge for a young team,” Graba said. “I think they learned a lot on our first road meet last week.”

Friday’s trip to Gainesville affords Graba a chance to visit with his former Auburn assistant of five years, Florida coach Jenny Rowland. It also provides a comparison for how much progress the Tigers have made.



“I think you can’t match yourself up across the country on what you score with what other people score,” Graba said. “The only time you get a good reading is when you’re on the same floor. I want to see how good we are compared to No. 3 in the country.”

Graba typically gives Auburn’s gymnasts 48 hours to recover from a meet. That won’t be an option this week, with the Alabama meet beginning 44 hours after the Florida meet concludes.

“It’s a rivalry for us. It’s a rivalry for them,” Graba said. “Some great charities are benefiting from it. We’re on a podium, so we’re preparing for the postseason. We’re trying to give ourselves an advantage. Both teams are. I think it’s only a positive at this point. We’re excited and we get to test ourselves against one of the top five teams in the country.”

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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