Auburn College gymnast and graduate Sam Cerio talks about her Auburn profession and her damage on Thursday Would possibly nine, 2019.
Bernard Law Montgomery Advertiser

AUBURN, Ala. — Sam Cerio’s eyes lit up as she reached for the mobile phone within the basket at the entrance of the blue scooter that, in the meanwhile, is serving as her legs.

She flipped thru picture after picture of herself strolling around the level at commencement a couple of days previous, a second she informed her medical doctors would occur, a second that won an ovation from the oldsters, friends and family of all of the new graduates that have been seated within Auburn Area at the first Saturday in Would possibly.

However Cerio wasn’t taking a look at herself beaming as her 4 years at Auburn College got here to an authentic conclusion. She used to be guffawing, lovingly, on the particular person you’ll be able to roughly see in the back of her in the ones footage. There may be the only the place his face is visual, however out of focal point. There’s the only you’ll be able to see simply his left shoulder. There’s the only the place you’ll be able to see simply his proper eye poking out in the back of her cap.

Earlier than Joseph Donald Picket III — or Trey, as everybody calls him — walked around the level, somebody informed him, “Excellent success following that.” He most certainly laughed. His title would possibly have adopted hers at their commencement, however she’ll take that title as her personal when the 2 get married early subsequent month.

That doesn’t imply Cerio goes to let her long term husband reside down the shaggy dog story, even though. That picture the place her face is eclipsing his? It has shades of Ryan Reynolds’ viral tweet to his wife, Blake Lively. Cerio is considering getting it framed.

WEDDING DATE: Auburn gymnast plans to stroll down aisle

AUBURN GYMNAST: ‘My ache isn’t your leisure’

On April five, Cerio changed into the topic of nationwide headlines for a reason why she by no means sought after to or will have even imagined. An awkward touchdown at the mat on her first move within the ground workout at an NCAA Regional in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ended in two dislocated knees and more than one torn ligaments in every.

Inside of hours, ESPN, Deadspin, The Washington Submit, USA TODAY and numerous different shops had written tales about her. Days later, she seemed on NBC’s These days display in entrance of a countrywide TV target market. Video of her devastating damage and footage of her anguish went viral so briefly that Cerio felt motivated to invite the Web to prevent, and it in fact appeared to pay attention.

“Going throughout the ache and seeing my knees bent unnaturally in actual existence used to be terrible sufficient,” she wrote on Twitter, “however to proceed to look it from movies/photos as a result of some other people really feel entitled to repost it isn’t ok. I’ve circle of relatives, buddies and teammates who don’t wish to see me getting injured over and over. My ache isn’t your leisure.”

You received’t in finding that video or the ones footage any place on this tale, and no longer best as a result of she has in particular asked it. No longer a lot of this tale goes to be about Cerio’s damage; it’s going to be a couple of four-year Auburn gymnast who not too long ago graduated with a point in aerospace engineering, has a task covered up at Boeing and plans to stroll down the aisle at her wedding ceremony to Picket on June 1.

Cerio is so a lot more than that one move around the ground at LSU.

“This damage, my damage, isn’t what’s going to outline me,” Cerio informed the Bernard Law Montgomery Advertiser. “I don’t need it to.”


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Cerio got here to gymnastics by means of trial and mistake. Her oldsters, Becky and Michael, sought after to get her excited by a recreation when she used to be about four years outdated, however they didn’t know which one. They attempted football first, however the constraints have been too unfastened. Cerio most popular to take a seat at the flooring and play with the grass reasonably than run round. Subsequent used to be ballet, however that used to be too constricting — the instructors couldn’t stay Cerio nonetheless lengthy sufficient to show her.

Gymnastics wound up being the very best mixture. She didn’t must run in anything else as opposed to brief bursts, and again flips and hand springs are a lot more thrilling than a Pas de Bourrée. The Huntersville, North Carolina, local took to the game so briefly and changed into aggressive at this type of excessive point that she started dreaming in regards to the Olympics. The speculation competing on the faculty point didn’t move her thoughts till the primary letters started arriving in her mailbox.

A type of letters used to be from Auburn. Cerio first popped up on trainer Jeff Graba’s radar all through her ninth-grade yr, whilst she used to be competing on the Kristie Phillips Athletic Heart in Troutman, North Carolina — a high-level fitness center frequented by means of faculty coaches. From a sensible perspective, she used to be a great are compatible for the Tigers; they’d 4 scholarships to be had for 2016 they usually wanted a powerful competitor on bars, which Cerio used to be.

What drew Graba to her, even though, used to be simply no longer her bodily talent, but in addition the focal point and determination with which she attacked the game. “You’ll run throughout athletes which can be gifted, however they don’t make the most of each side in their skill as a result of they’re no longer pushed sufficient to get admission to all their talents,” he mentioned. “Every so often, you run throughout anyone that’s extraordinarily gifted however could also be pushing the envelope.

“I believe find it irresistible’s the Michael Jordan factor, the place he’s actually gifted, however he extensively utilized virtually all of his skill as a result of he used to be so pushed, and I feel, to me, she’s like that.”

At Auburn, Cerio earned SEC All-Freshman Staff honors in 2016 and All-SEC honors in each 2017 and 2018. She additionally certified for the NCAA Championships on bars in each 2017 and 2018, which positioned her the most effective within the nation.

However lecturers have been similarly vital to Cerio. Her oldsters have at all times been supportive of her gymnastics profession, she mentioned, however all the way through it, they reminded her that “gymnastics will finish ultimately, and you’ve got to move and do different issues after that, so you need to in finding one thing that you just love up to you do gymnastics.”

That wound up being engineering. She began out in chemical, however after briefly understanding she wasn’t as robust in chemistry as she idea she used to be popping out of highschool, she switched to mechanical and later centered in on aerospace.

Cerio helped design a release car idea that might cross into low earth orbit for seven days than descend backpedal to the bottom, the use of components of the Saturn V, Atlas five and Dragon 2. She took the wing of a P-51 Mustang fighter and put it thru finite part research. She did structural research at the Area Release Gadget all through an internship with Boeing all through the summer season sooner than her senior yr at Auburn.

If you happen to merely glossed over all the ones difficult groupings of letters and numbers, you’re no longer by myself: Cerio’s educational paintings went over a few of her teammates’ heads, too.

“I didn’t actually speak about gymnastics and aerodynamics all that a lot,” Cerio mentioned, “as a result of my teammates are like, ‘that’s simply stuff we don’t even perceive. It’s OK. You don’t have to discuss it.’”

Come what may, between her coaching routine and apply and meets and going to elegance and learning, she controlled to fall in love, get engaged and plan a marriage. Like Cerio, Picket could also be an aerospace engineer — that’s how the 2 met. He’s a couple of years older, a large automobile man, and as in their commencement day, a commissioned Naval officer. He used to be a part of the group that did the flyover excessive above Jordan-Hare Stadium sooner than Auburn soccer’s Oct. 7, 2017, win over Ole Omit.

Picket popped the query in entrance of Samford Corridor on Nov. 18 of ultimate yr, and she or he mentioned sure. As a result of each are engineers, they have been sensible sufficient to get the majority of the marriage making plans finished over Christmas damage, sooner than the gymnastics season and spring semester started, so there are just a few main points left to finalize. The only maximum prominently on Cerio’s thoughts is determining what is going into converting one’s prison title.

They’ll be married on the Fairhope Yacht Membership on Saturday night, June 1, simply steps clear of the Cell Bay — Cerio hopes it received’t be too scorching and humid. They have got already moved out of the home they shared in Auburn, and shortly, they’ll relocate to Charleston, South Carolina, the place Cerio will get started her profession as a structural analyst at Boeing (it used to be going to be Seattle sooner than her damage) and Picket will get ready for deployment onto a submarine. They’re considering Hawaii for his or her honeymoon.

“Trey will have to be some of the very best human beings on earth, as a result of I don’t know if he ever will get to look her,” Graba joked. “I simply really feel like that’s the untold tale, is how does she squeeze all of this in?

“She’s the top of our Scholar Athlete Advisory Council; she’s an aerospace engineering main; she did a complete internship ultimate summer season with Boeing and were given out of a task out of that, so sooner than her senior yr of faculty, she already had a task; she’s engaged to be married midway thru this yr; and she or he’s some of the very best gymnasts that has ever walked throughout the doorways right here. I’m impressed by means of her.”

That’s what made what took place to her on April five in Baton Rouge so heartbreaking for everybody round her. The bodily ache used to be Cerio’s by myself, however the emotional ache used to be shared by means of her complete make stronger machine — teammates, coaches, family and friends. Graba described it as some of the worst nights in his existence as a trainer. For some time, the crew couldn’t get thru a gathering with out somebody crying.

Cerio doesn’t take note a lot from the speedy aftermath of her damage. She recollects considering that her move (a handspring double entrance turn) used to be relatively off, and that she nonetheless had a possibility to drag it all of the approach round or, at worst, land on her butt. As soon as she didn’t, the remaining — getting tended to at the mat, getting stretchered off the ground, going to the sanatorium — used to be all chaos.

Something Cerio does take note vividly, even though, is senior athletics teacher Cindy Cohen telling her, “Don’t fear; you’re going to stroll down that aisle.” It changed into a rallying cry for her rehab procedure, which she described as same old for any main leg damage, best multiplied by means of each legs.

“My running shoes and I all know, we’re all at the similar web page; that is going to occur,” mentioned Cerio, who underwent a a hit performed by means of Dr. James Andrews days after the damage. “We’re going to make it paintings. We’re going to do up to we will be able to to get me to that target.”

There’s no doubt that Cerio will make a complete restoration from her damage, however there could also be no set timetable for when that can occur. Or, if there may be, Cerio hasn’t requested. She doesn’t wish to know. She has her personal objectives, and she or he’s no longer involved in someone telling her she received’t be capable of accomplish them.

Essentially the most urgent of the ones objectives is having the ability to stroll down the aisle June 1, and because she used to be in a position to stroll around the level at commencement 4 weeks sooner than that, it sort of feels most probably that she’ll be capable of do this. However the largest target is to be self-sufficient. She’s mastered the usage of her scooter, and she or he’s in a position to stand up and stroll brief distances with out crutches equipped there’s one thing for her to carry onto, however there are nonetheless such a lot of elementary day by day actions — similar to showering, making meals and entering mattress — which can be exhausting for her.

And nonetheless, she has a grin ever provide on her face.

“I’m positive she’s had her vulnerable moments,” Graba mentioned. “All us athletes have had the ones vulnerable moments the place we’re by means of ourselves and really feel just a little bit sorry for ourselves and we’re annoyed, and I will be able to’t believe she hasn’t had that. However that isn’t how she operates, that isn’t who she is. She’s very goal-oriented and pushed, she’s 100 miles consistent with hour; as soon as she units her thoughts to one thing, she’s in a position to dam all of the different stuff out.

“I’m extraordinarily happy with the way in which she treated it, however I’ve to mention, I’m no longer stunned in any respect.”

Cerio describes her angle as a decision. Lifestyles goes at hand you those scenarios the place issues don’t cross your approach, whether or not or not it’s in pageant or the school room or any place else, and whether or not you need to or no longer, you need to undergo it. However it’s as much as you whether or not you need to move even though it with a favorable angle or unfavourable one, and there isn’t any mistaking which approach Cerio made up our minds to move.

After guffawing at the ones photos of Picket on her telephone, she presentations off the options of her scooter — the basket at the entrance full of a water bottle, snacks and the grabber her buddy gave her; the horn she needs used to be a lot louder, or no less than performed just a little song. Earlier than that, she chided the 3 other people along with her within Auburn’s gymnastics fitness center for no longer having observed “Avengers: Endgame” but, even supposing it had already been in theaters for greater than per week. She informed a tale about Graba’s dual brother, Jess.

Cerio suffered a devastating and career-ending damage simply weeks previous, however like she mentioned: that isn’t going to outline her.

“I’ve finished such a lot of issues right here that the sure utterly outweigh the negatives,” Cerio mentioned. “I’ve been in a position to do such a lot of issues I by no means imagined I’d be capable of do right here that I’m simply so thankful for the alternatives Auburn has given me, and the truth that I had one little bump within the street, it doesn’t actually subject simply because, while you have a look at the 4 years I’ve been at Auburn, I’ve been in a position to perform such a lot and be told such a lot as an individual.”

Observe Josh Vitale on Twitter at @JoshVitale