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Ramler, Loper fuel Gophers gymnastics to victory over Iowa, UCLA in the season opener

Minnesota defeated UCLA for the first time in program history.
Image by Brad Rempel – Gopher Athletics
Junior Mallory LeNeave throws up a peace sign on floor in front of a packed Maturi Pavilion during Minnesota’s season-opening victory over Iowa and UCLA on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

The Gophers gymnastics team shined in their season opener Monday in front of a packed, record-breaking regular-season attendance of 3,887 at Maturi Pavilion en route to a victory over Iowa and UCLA.

Minnesota (1-0) got off to a quick start with their vault team in the tri-meet and built off that early momentum to score 196.900 points, topping Iowa (195.950) and UCLA (194.850). The victory marks the first time in Gophers program history that they have defeated UCLA in a meet.

“What a fabulous start. It was so exciting in so many ways. Obviously, we had great performances, but the crowd and the energy were just amazing,” Gophers head coach Jenny Hansen said. “I think our team responded really well. Half of our team has never had a crowd before. I think they did a really great job. We’re just so pleased. [It’s] exactly where we want to be to open up the season.”

Fifth-years Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper fueled Minnesota, scoring all-around totals of 39.700 and 39.525 and accounting for 79.225 of the Gophers’ points.

Ramler won the bars and beam titles after scoring matching 9.950s and tied Iowa’s Lauren Guerin for the floor title with a 9.925, while Loper tallied a 9.950 on vault to win the event.

“They mean a lot [to this team],” sophomore Mya Hooten said. “Their energy in and outside of the gym is just amazing. They’re always so supportive and are just incredible teammates.”

The first two rotations for Minnesota came on vault and bars, where the lineups scored 49.175 and 49.275, and junior Mallory LeNeave made her collegiate debut on bars.

Every lineup found consistency as they all scored at least 49 points.

“That’s exactly what we’re looking for, the consistency at this point in the season,” Hansen said. “We’re looking to continue to get better, so the more we can be consistent now… [it] will give us a lot of confidence when we’re ready to keep adding on a little bit more.”

After two rotations, the Gophers trailed Iowa by just .100 with their new-looking beam team up next as freshmen Lauren Pearl and Haley Tyson made their collegiate debuts for Minnesota.

As the beam team started competing, there were a few slip-ups early in the lineup, and the Gophers needed a massive routine to give them a boost into the rest of the meet.

Then, senior Abbie Nylin gave them just that as she dazzled her way to her career-best score of 9.875. Ramler followed her to close out the beam lineup to provide Minnesota’s floor team a chance to make a comeback.

“That’s why we put her [Nylin] there when we were coming up with the lineup,” Hansen said. “We felt like she was someone that could get us back on track if we needed to be, and she stepped up. She did exactly what we were hoping to have her do. She went in and attacked that beam routine.”

Trailing Iowa by .125 heading into the final rotation, Minnesota’s floor team, which saw the debut of LeNeave, stole the show to earn a comeback win after scoring 49.375, the best of any Gophers lineup and any lineup in the meet.

Outside of Ramler’s commanding 9.925, the five scoring routines for Minnesota were all at least 9.850.

Hooten tallied 9.900 in her new floor routine, while her sophomore counterpart in Emily Koch tied her career-best score of 9.850. Loper and junior Halle Remlinger also matched Koch’s score.

After a 2021 season that saw no fans, the packed, energy-filled bleachers helped boost Minnesota to victory.

With the NCAA allowing their athletes to compete in an extra season due to Covid-19, Ramler, the reigning three-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, could not be more excited to be back competing for the Gophers for one last season.

“Last year not having fans, I think we really missed that,” Ramler said. “I was nervous just because it was my last first meet. Just having fans back means so much. It’s so special with this team right now.”

The Gophers return to action when they host No. 1 Michigan on Monday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. at Maturi Pavilion.

Correction: A previous version of this photo caption misstated the date that the photo was taken. The photo was taken on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

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