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Coach John Spini and Sammie Seaman end home careers for ASU with win over NIU

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In the final home meet for Arizona State gymnastics coach John Spini after a 34-year career, the No. 22-ranked Sun Devils defeated Northern Illinois 196.175 to 195 Friday in Tempe, as they move to next week’s Pacific-12 Championships.

It was also the Senior Night for Sammie Seaman, of Branson, Mo., who tied for the highest vault of the night with a 9.85.

“There’s a lot of memories in here I’ll never forget,” Seaman said. “He’s (Spini) such a great guy and cares for all of us, and to compete for him for four years has been such an honor.”

The nutrition major also had a floor exercise of 9.825.

“Sam is somebody who can do it all, she has the heart, the values and the talent,” Spini said. “One of the things I want from her is to graduate and have a great career in her choice.”

The Sun Devils posted their highest marks on the floor with a combined 49.3, highlighted with Natasha Sundby’s meet-high 9.95 and followed with Morgan Steigerwalt (9.875) and Allie Salas (9.85).

Steigerwalt also recorded a 9.875 on the balance beam and a 9.8 on the vault, while Salas and Sundby each vaulted marks of 9.825, and the team scored a 49.050.

ASU scored a 48.95 on the uneven bars, with Carissa Kraus and Kristine Levin leading with 9.825. Samantha Miceli’s 9.9 was the best beam routine on the night, and the Sun Devils and Huskies each scored a combined 48.875 in the event, NIU’s top of the meet.

Jaelyn Olsen was responsible for the Huskies’ top two performances Friday with a 9.85 on both the beam and the vault. Peyton Taylor and Amanda Stepp tied with a 9.825 on floor, and Megan Melendez posted a 9.825 on the bars.

Although he had tried to play off his retirement since announcing it in January, a video of Spini’s career played after the meet and alumna also gathered on the floor.

“I’m a very lucky man,” Spini said. “It was never like work. My favorite moments are when you see a kid who has struggled succeed. When you see that light in her eyes go off, you can see that in our sport because they’re out there by themselves. When I go to see them graduate and have a family, those are special moments to me.”

Spini stressed how he didn’t want to distract his team this season and turned down interviews relating to the subject. In the video, UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field spoke of her team coming down to the wire with ASU in the 1997 national championship and Spini still clapping and cheering for her athletes to do well, even though they would go on to defeat him. That is the type of sportsmanship he will be remembered for.

The conference championships are March 22 in Berkeley, Calif.

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