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Gophers gymnastics places third in session one of NCAA Championships semifinals, guaranteed the best finish in program history

Minnesota is guaranteed at lowest a seventh-place finish, marking the highest placing at the NCAA Championships in program history.
Image by Courtesy of Bjorn Franke – Gopher Athletics
Minnesota fifth-year Ona Loper recorded her career-high score of 39.725 against Michigan on Monday, Jan. 24, 2021.

Heading into the final rotation in Fort Worth, Texas, in session one at the 2022 NCAA National Championships semifinals, the No. 8 Gophers gymnastics team sat in fourth place of four teams, trailing third-place No. 5 Alabama by 0.250. However, Minnesota’s bars team and one of the program’s greatest gymnasts of all time, fifth-year Lexy Ramler, had different plans.

Ramler, anchoring the bars team that totaled 49.3875, scored 9.9500 on her routine to help the Gophers to a third-place finish (197.1125) in the semifinals behind No. 1 Oklahoma (198.1125), No. 4 Utah (197.7125) and ahead of Alabama (197.1000)

“I can’t think of a better finish,” Gophers head coach Jenny Hansen said of Ramler’s closing routine. “Being able to watch her knowing that was probably her last routine competitively and for her to finish the way she did and bring our team up another spot, that was pretty clutch, and it was a really special routine.”

With the third-place finish, while making their sixth NCAA appearance, Minnesota’s 2021-22 campaign as a team comes to a close as Oklahoma and Utah advance to the NCAA Championships finals on April 16 at noon CST.

However, Minnesota’s finish in session one of the semifinals guarantees the program its highest finish to close out a season. At the conclusion of session two on Thursday evening, Minnesota moved into sixth place overall. Previously, the Gophers’ best finishes were eighth-place in 2013 and 2021.

“We’re guaranteed the best finish. [Now we] just wait to see how tonight unfolds and see how high we could go,” Hansen said. “We’re really proud of the way the team finished. We did think this was the team that could set a new record for our program, so we’re pretty thrilled about that.”

Minnesota’s floor team was its best lineup of the meet. All five scoring routines tallied at least 9.8750 en route to producing 49.500, the program’s highest floor score recorded at the NCAAs.

Sophomore Mya Hooten highlighted the floor team routines as she dazzled the crowd with her Beyoncé-inspired routine, which scored a 9.9500. This score puts her in second place on the apparatus through session one.
“[That was] probably [Hooten’s] best routine she’s done. Ever. It was really exciting for that floor group,” Hansen said. “Her amplitude and tumbling were off the charts. Her landings were fantastic, so it was a really special routine.”

Hooten now has two 9.9500s on floor in as many appearances in the NCAA Championships semifinals. She rounded out her meet with a team-high 9.9000 on vault and 9.8500 on bars, topping her scores on these apparatuses from last season’s NCAA Championships semifinals.

Through session one, Ramler’s bars (9.9500) and beam (9.9375) routines put her in a three-way tie and five-way tie for first place on the apparatuses, respectively. The Gophers veteran tallied 9.8875 on floor and 9.8375 on vault to complete her all-around, where she sits in second place behind Oregon State’s Olympian Jade Carey.

The vault and beam lineups scored 49.2500 and 48.9750, respectively, to round out the apparatuses for the Gophers.

Outside of Ramler, her fifth-year counterparts in Ona Loper and Hannah Willmarth had strong performances. Loper is in fifth place in the all-around (39.3500) through session one as her bars routine was her best of the meet at 9.9000, which Willmarth matched to tie her season-best.

Minnesota’s appearance in this year’s semifinals marked the first time in program history the team has reached the NCAA Championships in back-to-back seasons.

“That was a huge step for us,” Hansen said. “Getting here is really difficult, but getting here two years in a row is even harder. I’ve given our team and our program a lot of confidence that we belong here and know what it takes to get here, so I think that’s really important for us moving forward.”

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