They both knew this night would be coming. One was honored for her stellar four years as an ASU gymnast, the other honored for his 34 years as head coach. But when it came time for senior Sammie Seaman and head coach John Spini to take their bows in their last home meet, neither could have predicted how emotional the night was.
Following a meet in which No. 22 ASU knocked off Northern Illinois 196.175-195.000, a teary Wells Fargo Arena bid adieu to Seaman, who has been commended for her versatility on the floor and leadership off it. After honoring Seaman, ASU went on to honor Spini, whose 34 years of service at his alma mater, including four national runner-up finishes, 10 individual national championships, and 81 All-Americans leave a legacy up there with the greatest coaches to ever wear maroon and gold.
“I thought the meet was great. We overcame a fall on beam and still almost scored our highest team score,” Seaman said. “I feel great. This team is just going to keep building.”
The Sun Devils opened up on vault. A fall from sophomore Carissa Kraus put the back end of the rotation in need of strong landings. Junior Morgan Steigerwalt, who normally doesn’t compete on vault, scord a 9.800. Seaman stuck a 9.850, receiving a roar from the crowd. Junior Natasha Sundby earned a 9.825 and freshman Beka Conrad scored a 9.750 as ASU erased the fall, earning a 49.050 on vault.
ASU moved to uneven bars, with sophomore Risa Perez leading off with a 9.750. Sophomore Kristine Levin scored a strong 9.825 and after a 9.750 from Conrad and 9.800 from sophomore Stephanie Miceli, ASU was in good shape. However, a fall from junior Brianna Gades put Kraus in a pressured position as anchor. She came through with a 9.825, erasing the fall from Gades, as ASU totaled a 48.950 on bars.
Next was balance beam. Strong scores of 9.825 and 9.875s from Conrad, Steigerwalt and Perez, respectively, got ASU out to an impressive start, but a fall from Gades and Borman put a damper on the event. Miceli scored a meet high 9.900 as ASU left beam with a 48.875.
The last event of the night, and of Seaman’s home career, was on floor exercise. Sophomore Allie Salas opened up with a 9.850, followed by a 9.825 from Seaman. Steigerwalt rounded out her three-event night with a 9.875, and after Perez earned a 9.800, Sundby scored an impressive 9.950 as ASU totaled a 49.300 on floor.
“My favorite moment is when you see a kid who struggles succeed. You see that light in her eyes. You see that in our sport,” Spini said. “I feel young out here, but somebody can do it better, it’s time for me step down.”
After the meet concluded, two long videos played on the Jumbotron to an emotional Wells Fargo Arena honoring both Seaman and Spini. Seaman kept an infectious smile on her face, breaking down for a moment to hold back tears.
Coach Spini talked on what Seaman has meant to the program.
“Sammie, she’s a great leader. She’s meant a great deal to us just because she’s somebody that’s a talented athlete,” Spini said. “If I needed her to go on bars or even beam, I can get her (on there.) She can be ready in a week, that’s what type of athlete she is.
“Sam is somebody who can do it all. (She has) values, she’s got the heart, and she’s got the talent. I want her to graduate and I want her to have a great career in her choice of career. She has the chance to be great at anything she touches.”
An emotional Seaman spoke on her last home meet as a Sun Devil.
“I mean, it’s the last time I’ve competed in here. Four years, I’ve got a lot of memories in here I’ll never forget,” Seaman said as she looked around Wells Fargo Arena, taking in the scenery for the last time as an ASU gymnast.
Spini’s eyes welled up too, but not as much as his team and former athletes’ eyes did. The video, where fellow Pac-12 coaches spoke on how much Spini has meant to collegiate gymnastics, concluded and Spini started walking around, greeting former ASU gymnasts and taking pictures, thanking every one of them with a long hug. The visiting Huskies gymnasts came up to Spini and thanked him for everything he has given to the sport. Even the opposing coach who Spini had just defeated came over and commended him.
Seaman spoke on what Coach Spini has meant to her.
“He’s such a great guy. He cares for all of us. To be able to compete under him for four years is such an honor,” Seaman said.
“To be part of Arizona State, a Division I coach for all my years. I’m just in awe of how many people showed up and how many alumni showed up. It was very nice,” Spini said.
“I’m a lucky man. I’m a very lucky man.”
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