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Student demonstrators in the rainy weather protesting outside of Coffman Memorial Union on Tuesday.
Photos from April 23 protests
Published April 23, 2024

Episode 43: Chatting with Gophers gymnastics’ Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper

In this week’s episode of the “Weekly Rundown,” reporter Michael Lyne is joined by fifth-years Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper to discuss their gymnastics careers, close relationship and time spent at the University.

INTRO MUSIC PLAYS 

MICHAEL LYNE: Hello, and welcome back to the weekly rundown from the Minnesota Daily. I’m your host Michael Lyne, one of our four sports reporters. Today, I am with two of the greatest gymnasts to ever go through the Gophers women’s gymnastics program. Together, the duo holds the top-14 best all-around scores in program history. The first gymnast here with me today has a long list of accolades and accomplishments during her five-year stint with the Gophers. 

She was the 2021 AAI award winner, a three-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, a three-year Honda Award finalist and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2018. She is an eight-time NCAA First Team All-American and a four-time NCAA Second Team All-American. She has seven Big Ten Championships titles to her name, which ties for the most in program history. She holds the program record in all-around competition, and she has earned five career-perfect 10s, four on beam and one on vault. She even has a gymnastics skill named after her. I could continue on with the accolades but without further ado, Lexy Ramler is the first gymnast from the Gophers women’s gymnastics team to join me today. Hi, Lexy.

LEXY RAMLER: Hi, Michael. How are you? 

LYNE: Good. Thanks for being here. Should be a fun podcast.

RAMLER: Thank you for having me.

LYNE: The second gymnast, but certainly not the least here with me today, also has quite the gymnastics resume after her five collegiate years with the Gophers. She was a finalist for the AAI award in 2022 and is a two-time NCAA First Team All-American and a three-time NCAA Second Team All-American. She has five career perfect 10s on vault, the most in Gophers program history. She’s a Big Ten champion on floor, and the only gymnast to have a higher all-around score than her in program history is sitting directly to her left in Lexy Ramler. The second gymnast that is joining Lexy and I today is Ona Loper. Hi, Ona.

ONA LOPER: Hi, Michael. Thanks for having us.

LYNE: Of course. So just to get into it. To start, I’m just curious to learn about kind of how your guys’ relationship developed over the past five years. Do you guys remember the first time you guys met?

LOPER: Yeah, I think it was on our official visit in, I think, September 2016, I think, when we both came to Minnesota. Yeah, that was, that was so long ago. It’s crazy. 

RAMLER: That was a long time ago for sure. Yeah, I remember. Both of us were pretty quiet. And so we didn’t have that initial connection right away, I think. It was more so, you know, we were just nice to each other and whatnot. And I think our bond really started to grow the first summer that we were here in that aspect. So.

LYNE: What was kind of the first reactions that you had of each other?

LOPER: Personally, I was a little bit intimidated by Lexy. Obviously, she was an elite athlete. Just an incredible person all around. So just meeting her in person was kind of crazy. And I mean, yeah, I was, I was definitely intimidated. I didn’t really know how to approach her.

RAMLER: My first kind of like interaction with Ona, I really came to college, so I was really quiet in high school and so I wanted to come to college and kind of grow outside of my bubble a little bit. So she was a little quiet. So, I was like, okay, like she’s super nice. And then, but like I wasn’t like super super drawn to her I would say.

LOPER: It wasn’t love at first sight. 

RAMLER: It was not love at first sight. But then again, like during that summer when we were like actually together and like working out together and basically 24/7 together. That’s where our bond really grew.

LYNE: The relationship wasn’t big at that time. But as it progressed throughout the years, you guys have been roommates. Correct?

RAMLER: Yes.

LYNE: For how long?

LOPER: Since, well, freshman year we weren’t but after that, so the past four years.

LYNE: I was talking to Jenny this morning and she said that you guys are very close. You take studies very seriously and you spend a lot of time together. Just what has that meant to you guys to have developed such a close relationship? You know, whereas you came in freshman year you weren’t roommates, just how’s that been?

RAMLER: For me personally, it has meant so much. I think really kind of having that training buddy every single day, we work very similar together. We like our space, but we also really like each other at the same time. So there’s so many different aspects about how we just really like draw that connection with each other and it’s just so fun and so cool to experience all of these different opportunities with your favorite person.

LOPER: Yeah, I agree. It’s definitely been nice just to have someone to always be able to go to with anything. College, it can be really hard, and so having someone that can relate to all of your struggles is super nice. She’s been there through everything, and she’s just really pushed me as a gymnast and made me be a better person overall.

LYNE: I’ve had the pleasure of watching you guys, covering the team over the past two seasons. How much has just like friendly competition helped you guys in practice and meets? Obviously just watching you guys you guys seem to be even pretty competitive with each other.

RAMLER: I would say that really comes in like, like, working out. Like, for me personally, like conditioning like we have like this five back tuck routine. I’m like, “Hey, you want to race?” She’s like “Yeah.” I’m like, “Okay, let’s go.” And so like, that’s where I said like we really push ourselves like in the gym and just in that competitive aspect. But I think when it comes to competition, we’re still there for support. We want to see each other do so well. And ultimately that just, you know, brings up the team. And it’s, it’s been hard but to have that person that knows exactly what you’re going through and is doing the same work and just going through everything the same. It just brings all that comfort.

LYNE: For sure. And, when you guys are choosing a school 5, 6, 7 years ago, why Minnesota? What brought you guys to Minnesota? What interested you about Minnesota’s gymnastics program?

LOPER: I feel like this one might be easy for Lexy because she’s from Minnesota. But for me, I didn’t really know a lot about the University of Minnesota before I did my first visit. It wasn’t really something I was drawn to just because it was so far away from home. And then, the coaches contacted me and I kind of just like started talking to them a little bit and I really liked Jenny and just how her personality and just how she talked about the program. So I ended up coming to visit and then I just immediately fell in love with everything – the campus, the people. And just it was very different and that was kind of like an environment that I wanted to experience. So I was excited to kind of get outside of my comfort zone and experience something new.

RAMLER: So, I was pretty much more on the opposite. I wanted to stay close to home. I wanted to stay in Minnesota close to my family and everything. So that was ultimately my biggest decision there, but also like the academics here at the University of Minnesota are just world-class. And so that definitely is what drew me there and then just kind of how the coaches also interacted with the athletes and through kind of practices. And that’s definitely what drew me overall to this program.

LYNE: When I was talking to Jenny, Ona, she mentioned that the Minnesota gymnastics program was the first program to offer you. Is that true?

LOPER: Yes, and the only.

LYNE: Just, it was the only one? 

LOPER: Yeah.

LYNE: The only one that took a chance on you?

RAMLER: That’s nuts. 

LYNE: How does that make you feel sitting here 5, 6, 7 years later?

LOPER: I’m, I’m just really grateful for Minnesota for being the one to reach out to me. I wouldn’t have wanted to experience my college gymnastics career anywhere else. So honestly, that’s all I have to say about that.

LYNE: Moving on, do you guys have an all-time like favorite individual or team accomplishment? I’m sure your first perfect 10s are up there, the Big 10’s are up there, so maybe there’s not anything else out there, but I’m curious to know because you guys have definitely earned some like accomplishments outside of outside of the gym, such as like Big Ten honors, National honors. So I’m just curious if there’s anything there.

RAMLER: I would say for me. Like just being able to go back to Nationals again with this team. I think the coolest part about being a part of this program through all my years is just the growth that it has experienced. And it’s just been so cool to watch to just be a part of something that continues to grow is, it’s just a different connection, I would say to kind of the whole experience.

LOPER: Yeah, I agree, I think going to Nationals this year and last year. It made us feel like we’re just like an incredible program and something that it’s really special to be a part of and finishing in the top 6 this year is such a huge accomplishment for this program. So it’s really, it’s really cool that we have been able to experience that.

LYNE: Yeah, and for people that don’t know the Gophers making NCAA appearances, in the last two seasons and back to back is the first time in program history that that has happened. So that’s super exciting. I’m curious to know about your guys’ like focus and mental preparation that goes into meets like if there’s a meet at like 2 p.m., like, when do you wake up, and like what’s your routine like before you even get to the Pav let’s say?

LOPER: I can go. I feel like mine’s changed every single year because I’ve tried to like do different strategies and I think I think it’s helped, I don’t know though. But I think I’m a little bit opposite than Lexy on this, but I really just try not to think about anything about like focusing on school like right before is like ideal just because your head is totally not thinking about gym, and yeah, just really trying to stay distracted honestly. And then usually like the day before practices when I kind of have a little freakout and like kind of stress and everything so then like the day of the meet I’m like, “Alright, I’ll be fine like no worries.” And that definitely happened a lot this year, which I think stressed a lot of people out but it gave me more confidence so I was good with it.

RAMLER: Yes. So we are completely opposites in this aspect. Whenever she would like, like just like struggle like the day before like everybody would kind of freak out. I was like, “Ah, she’s fine guys. I’m not concerned whatsoever. Warm-ups, if she’s falling, like she’s fine. No, no big issue.” But I think that’s just been throughout watching your confidence grow as well as just you overall as an individual. For me personally. I also have a little freakout typically the night before, that’s just kind of how it goes. But it’s just like kind of at a point where I get so overwhelmed with everything and it’s not for every competition, but like the bigger ones. I just get so overwhelmed and then it’s just like okay, then I like calm down and settle down and really kind of like lock-in. I’m definitely very focused on gymnastics probably the night before, all the way up to the meet. I don’t do homework at those times. Very much into just visualizing and just, you know, looking at my affirmations and kind of all those different aspects.

LYNE: Do you guys have any like go-to meals the night before a meet or like the morning of a meet?

LOPER: I feel like usually Jenny kind of makes sure we do like pasta or something with like a lot of carbs before a meet so like for away meets that’s usually what we do. I feel like chicken parm is probably one of our go-to’s.

RAMLER: We always get like the exact same meals.

LOPER: We always get the exact same thing. But for home meets, not really, just kind of do what you do every other day. 

RAMLER: Yeah, I would say like right before I go out, I do have like half of a bagel with cream cheese. That is kind of like a thing that I’ve like had but that’s the only thing that’s really repeated.

LYNE: Would you say that’s like a superstition? You always have to eat your half-bagel with cheese?

RAMLER: Um, no. I wouldn’t say that. I do kind of like get upset if it’s not there. 

LOPER: It wasn’t there at Nationals, right?

RAMLER: It was not there at Nationals. 

LOPER: “Where’s my cream cheese and bagel?” She’s really flustered. 

RAMLER: Yeah, I was kind of flustered. But I was like, “Okay, it’s more of like, I know I need to eat something,” because like, I haven’t ate like that entire morning like I need to eat something and like, that’s just like the only thing I can really like put down like even though like I don’t really want it otherwise it’s just like an applesauce I guess, but.

LYNE: Do either of you have any superstitions with like warming up and getting ready for meets?

LOPER: I was really superstitious in high school. Like before I came to college. And I like once I came to college, I was like, “No, like some things you just can’t control just like don’t worry about it.” For a little bit, it was like the same earrings. I think, are you?

RAMLER: Yeah, I like I wear the same earrings but I don’t think like it would like change. Like I like know that it doesn’t affect my like performance and I think that’s like both of us kind of like realize is that with like kind of gymnastics or any sport, you, whatever is thrown at you you have to deal with and figure it out and kind of be adaptable in those different aspects. So I think that’s what we realized, but I do wear the exact same earrings for every single meet.

LOPER: There’s like little things where it’s like, oh, like maybe if I do this again it will be good because last meet it was good. But like, you know that that’s not true. So I think it’s like in the back of your head, but you know, you can still do well either way.

RAMLER: Yeah, like I did poor at one meet and I’ve never done that hairstyle again. So, it’s like stuff like that.

LYNE: What was the hairstyle?

RAMLER: It was just like a simple braid in the front. I was kind of upset because it was like it looked good. And then I was like, “Nope, can’t do it again.” So, then I like I have a hairstyle that I do for every single meet. So, that was the one time that I switched it up. And I was like, “Yep, see ya.” That’s what did it, but it’s not in reality, but you know.

LYNE: I’ve always been curious to ask athletes, especially at the college level how you guys deal with social media. Do you guys go on it a lot? Do you look at it a lot? Like how do you guys handle going about social media, especially for you two since you’re like really, really good gymnasts? How do you guys just deal with that?

LOPER: I can go. I actually deleted both my accounts this year just so that I could, you know, more just like enjoy it because like there are people that say things or like or you do kind of get caught up in like one thing someone says or like if you are doing good you want to see like if people are noticing, you know, like things like that. So it’s just easier just to like not look at it at all. So I found a lot more peace just like not looking at anything, so it was really nice.

RAMLER: Again, opposites here. I am definitely more into social media. I would say some of my like other teammates are even more into it. Like I don’t think I’m like that into it. But I appreciate kind of the different outreach that I, you know, impacts that I can make out you know, just reaching like younger athletes and just seeing like the cool stuff that they say. Ultimately, really focusing on the positive aspects, not focusing so much on the negative. Media can really kind of like drag you down in that way. But I think that’s, over time, is something that you learn. But yes, I’m definitely more into social media.

LYNE: I’m curious to just hear what’s next for you guys. Are you guys going to be involved in gymnastics in the future? Whether that be continuing on actually being a gymnast or coaching. Kind of just what’s next for you two?

RAMLER: Um, for me so I will still have one more semester of my master program. So, this summer I will be interning with Polaris, which I’m super excited about and then going to be finishing my master’s early. And but then like, gymnastics is such a big part of my life. For me, like personally, like I just love it so much. And being able to kind of coach young athletes is definitely something that I enjoy. So I’m going to find a way to stay in gymnastics somehow just through camps or doing floor routines and just different outreaches in that way. 

LOPER: So I will be graduating with my master’s in epidemiology in the next week or so.

LYNE: Congrats.

LOPER: So my plans are kind of just to pursue my epidemiology career. I’m still not quite sure where it will lead me yet, but I wouldn’t mind staying in gymnastics. Not quite to the extent that I think Lexy wants to, but I’ll still come back and watch meets and cheer on the Gophers. They’ll always be a family to me now, so I’ll always want to check in to make sure they’re doing well and if they need anything and just being supportive alumni now, so I’m excited for that.

LYNE: Do you have any messages for Gophers fans out there? 

RAMLER: Thank you.

LOPER: Yes. Thank you so much for everything.

RAMLER: Yes, thank you so much for the support in the Pav, outside of the Pav, from a distance over social media, everything. I think our entire team has really felt it and it’s, it’s just meant so much to us.

LOPER: We truly have the best fans.

LYNE: Again, I want to thank Ona Loper and Lexy Ramler for sitting down with me and talking all things Gophers gymnastics. Be sure to check out our website mndaily.com for more coverage, and tune in again at a later date to get the Weekly Rundown on all things Gopher sports. Thank you, Lexy. Thank you, Ona. I appreciate it. This was fun. 

RAMLER: Thank you so much. 

LOPER: Thank you.

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