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Gophers women’s gymnastics finishes fourth in NCAA semifinals, signaling the end of season

Senior Ona Loper had a career night, achieving a new career-high total of 39.6375 in the all-around.
Image by Shannon Doyle
Ona Loper performs her balance beam routine at the Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Championships at Maturi Pavillion on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

The No. 8 Gophers women’s gymnastics team finished in fourth place in the semifinal of the NCAA championship on Friday evening, signaling the end to its historic 2021 season.

Although the meet was not what they hoped it to be, the Gophers scored a total of 197.1875, the highest score the program has ever produced at the NCAA tournament.

“We are just so proud of the way the team performed today and how they capped off a fantastic season,” Gophers head coach Jenny Hansen said. “These are the best teams in the country, and we are among them. It was so exciting to be there tonight, and I am so glad our team got to experience this. They made their mark and set the stage for what is to come.”

The vault team kicked off the semifinal for the Gophers and got them off to a quick start, scoring a total of 49.3875.

However, the Gophers’ momentum faded away just as fast as it arrived after they suffered from two lower-scoring rotations on the bars and beam. By the fourth rotation on the floor, their deficit was too much to overcome.

Ona Loper’s career performance

Senior Ona Loper scored a career-best all-around total of 39.6375, placing her in fourth for the semifinal round.

“I am very excited and proud of how I performed today,” Loper said. “When I started the season, I tied my career high in the all-around at the first meet, and it was very exciting to break that in the last meet today. To be able to put everything together and have a performance like that at national championships is a dream come true.”

Loper’s superb performance that scored 9.9625 on the vault placed her in third and was the highlight of her all-around performance. She anticipated achieving this high score based on the way warm-ups went for her.

“Usually when I don’t do super good in warm-ups, I kind of have a feeling it’s going to be good,” Loper said. “Every time I’ve gotten a 10, I’ve usually fallen on my butt [in warmups] every single time.”

To round out Loper’s career day all-around performance, she scored 9.9250 on the floor and earned matching 9.8750s on the bars and beam.

“Ona was on fire,” Hansen said. “She had a phenomenal day.”

The seniors shined

From the very start to the very end of the meet, the seniors, including Loper, showed up big time in every event for the Gophers.

Lexy Ramler finished tied for 11th place in the all-around, totaling a score of 39.5625. Her best performance was on the beam, scoring 9.9250, which earned her a tie for fifth place. She went into the semifinal tied for first in the nation in the event.

Ramler came into the semifinal tied for second in the nation in the all-around with an average score of 39.660. While her total might have been lower than expected, Hansen had high praise for Ramler.

“She has been so perfect for so long,” Hansen said. “I don’t know if it was the pressure coming in or the expectations. She was great. If this is an off night for Lexy, wow. She’s fantastic.”

To round out her all-around performance, Ramler scored 9.8875 on the bars, while earning matching 9.8750s on the vault and floor.

Bars specialist Hannah Willmarth earned the third-best score in the bars lineup, behind Ramler and Loper, scoring 9.8625.

Redshirt senior Mary Korlin-Downs proved once again why she is a beam specialist for the Gophers. She tied for fifth place alongside Ramler after scoring 9.9250. Senior Lexi Montgomery also competed on the beam, scoring 9.7500 in a lineup that usually sees the most seniors of any event.

The Gophers floor team put on a show

In the final rotation, the Gophers’ floor team closed things out with another fantastic performance, following up its Athens Regional Final score of 49.500 with a 49.4625.

Outside of Loper and Ramler, freshman Mya Hooten posted a massive score of 9.9500. Hooten quickly established herself as a cornerstone in the floor lineup. Earlier this season, she scored a perfect 10, the first Gopher in program history to achieve this feat.

“She is absolutely amazing,” Loper said. “Honestly, she’s more of a veteran than I am. I swear. Watching her, she’s just so incredible.”

Sophomore floor specialist Mallory LeNeave and freshman Emily Koch rounded out the rotation, scoring 9.8750 and 9.8375, respectively.

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