PEELER: Seaman Leads Pack Into EAGL Championship
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. – This has been a year like no other for NC State senior gymnast Taylor Seaman.
One of the most accomplished gymnasts in school history, Seaman missed time earlier this season with several nagging injuries, including strained hip flexors, a possible stress fracture in her upper thigh and a sprained ankle.
She missed rotations in four meets this year, including the entire meet against William & Mary earlier this month. In her absence, the Wolfpack struggled after a strong start. It lost back-to-back matches against New Hampshire and No. 5 Georgia before bouncing back with a win over William & Mary last weekend.
The time away from competition has made Seaman, who competed in the NCAA Championship meet last year as an individual, even more dedicated to performing well as her NC State career winds down.
"I've never really had a season like this, where I sat out some and didn't do all the events," Seaman said. "But I think it has been good for me. It made me fight more, to be more conscientious about not taking anything for granted and competing hard every weekend.
"So I am just enjoying the ride."
Seaman will lead the defending champion Wolfpack into the EAGL championship tonight at the University of New Hampshire. NC State has won two of the last three EAGL titles and four overall, including last year's championship in Raleigh.
Her absence and injuries haven't really affected her status as one EAGL's top performers. Friday night, at the annual awards banquet, Seaman earned four All-EAGL awards, including first-team honors on the bars, floor and the all-around. She was also a second-team selection on the beam. In her career, Seaman has won 14 first- or second-team honors.
That's all good for her individual accomplishments. What Seaman really wants for her senior season is for the Wolfpack to join her at the NCAA Championships. While the team has qualified for the NCAA Regionals in 17 of the last 18 years, only once (in 1998) has the team advanced to the NCAA Championship.
Seaman wants to return, and take the entire team with her.
"I definitely learned the importance of having a team with you and cheering you on," Seaman said. "You kind of take that for granted until you don't have it. So it is really, really important for me when we do go to nationals that we are all together."
Last year, the Wolfpack won the EAGL Championship with an amazing performance on its final rotation, with Brittany Vontz and Lauren Deuser tying for the championship.
Seaman and her teammates have thought about that final rotation throughout the season, as things did not progress they way they might have wanted.
"That meet was so much fun," Seaman said. "Just like it was fun when things were really going well this season. So we are trying not to stress out about things, even though this can be a stressful time of year. You can't over-analyze anything, because that is when you start to get into trouble. When you start second guessing things, you aren't going to do things the way you know how.
"Everybody knows what they need to do."
For Seaman, trying to step forward and be a team leader on a team with lots of experience has been somewhat difficult. She and Deuser are the senior leaders on the squad, and they try to get together often to talk about how to make sure the team stays properly motivated.
They know the team can be really strong: earlier this year, the Wolfpack scored its first victory over a top-10 team when it beat No. 10 Nebraska at the Sweetheart Invitational. It was also within 1.5 points of No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Florida in dual meets earlier this winter.
"We came out of the gate really, really strong, which is not something we have done since I have been here," Seaman said. "We came out really strong and really confident. Then we had one off meet (at William & Mary) and it kind of trickled to the next two meets (against New Hampshire and Georgia). That's pretty uncharacteristic of us as a team.
"So we are really looking forward to picking back up where we left off before that meet."
For Seaman, this is the stretch run of her well-decorated college career. She is scheduled to graduate next year with dual degrees in Elementary Education and Sports Management. She hopes one day to be a teacher.
But her concentration at the moment is her final time competing at the EAGL championships.
"It's just really important that we keep a positive attitude and a smile on our faces," Seaman said. "We don't want anyone on our team to feel like we are panicking or stressing or thinking about this being our last EAGL meet.
"We just want to go out there and have fun, like we did on that last rotation last year."
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.