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Published April 13, 2024

Ramler, Loper leaving Gophers women’s gymnastics as two of the program’s greatest

The duo will leave the program with everlasting memories and impacts on teammates, coaches, fans and the rest of the gymnastics world, which has yet to sink in.
Ona Loper and Lexy Ramler, Photo courtesy Gopher Athletics, Kelly Hagenson.

A program-changing duo.

That’s how Gophers women’s gymnastics head coach Jenny Hansen described the impact fifth-years Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper have had on the program of which she has been at the helm for eight seasons.

“They’re similar in that they’re very focused. School is really important to them,” Hansen said of Ramler and Loper. “Then, gymnastics is a close second, and the social life piece is important, but it never got in the way of what they wanted to accomplish.”

Hansen and her coaching staff had high hopes for Ramler coming into college. She was the 2017 Junior Olympic national champion on beam and coined a skill called “The Ramler.” They knew she had the potential to be one of the greatest gymnasts the program has ever seen.

For Loper, Gophers women’s gymnastics assistant coach Geralen Stack-Eaton found her through recruiting and told Hansen they needed to travel and see her in her hometown of Bluffton, S.C.

Despite being a 2017 Junior Olympic national champion on floor and the runner-up on beam in the 2016 Junior Olympics, the Gophers were the first and only program to offer Loper a spot on a collegiate roster. Hansen felt she was a “diamond in the rough” finding for the program.

Loper took the opportunity to continue her gymnastics career with the Gophers after a campus visit. For Ramler, she wanted to stay in-state, close to her hometown of St. Michael, Minn.

When Ramler and Loper met for the first time, Loper was intimidated by Ramler, saying she was “an elite person” and “didn’t know how to approach her,” while Ramler was not “super drawn” to Loper.

Fast forward five years, the duo’s gymnastics careers are complete as they leave the program as best friends and two of the top gymnasts it has ever seen.

Ramler and Loper combine for the top 14 best all-around scores in program history while also accounting for 31 of the program’s top 38.

Ramler was the 2021 AAI Award winner, a three-time Honda Award finalist, a three-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, an eight-time NCAA First Team All-American and a seven-time Big Ten champion, to name a few.

Loper is a two-time NCAA First Team All-American, a three-time NCAA Second Team All-American, a two-time NCAA Regional champion on vault and was a finalist for the AAI award in 2022.

Reflecting on Ramler and Loper’s time with the Gophers program in her office at Athletes Village, Hansen did not hold back on praising the duo for their contributions to her program.

When asked if Ramler is the program’s greatest gymnast of all time and whether Loper is the program’s best vaulter ever, Hansen, without hesitation, responded with “yes” to both questions.

“I can’t think of another athlete that has made more of an impact [than Ramler],” Hansen said. “We are dearly going to miss [Loper’s] vault … it was an event that we all got better on because we had Ona in that lineup.”

Ramler and Loper led the Gophers gymnastics team to back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2021 and 2022 for the first time in program history, alongside a Big Ten Championship title in 2021.

The Gophers finished their 2022 campaign by taking sixth at the NCAA Championships, the team’s highest placing ever in the National tournament. Minnesota also reached 198 points for the first time in program history against Iowa on Feb. 25.

The duo did not let off their gas pedals in their fifth year competing together.

Ramler averaged 39.634 in the all-around, recorded one perfect 10 on beam, and tallied a career-high on floor (9.975), while Loper averaged 39.492 in the all-around, scored a career-best (39.750) in the all-around and recorded two perfect 10s on vault.

1.838 points. That is how little the point totals separated Ramler and Loper in all-around competition this season.

Loper progressively got better and more consistent every year, but she flew under the radar because of her best friend, who she has roomed with for the past four years.

“Ona is someone who doesn’t mind being in the shadows. She doesn’t love the limelight, she’s uncomfortable with that. As we look back at it, I think it was a comfortable situation for her. She didn’t have to be the one in front leading,” Hansen said. “She got to do her thing, keep getting better, and got some attention along the way, but enjoying that piece where she and Lexy could do it together.”

The competitive but ever-friendly duo pushed each other as training partners, competing against each other in workouts and holding competitions often. The years of challenges helped Ramler and Loper to pursue greatness together.

“We want to see each other do so well,” Ramler said. “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.”

Before they became Gophers, Ramler and Loper never had training partners. The opportunity to have one was not there as other gymnasts in their clubs were years younger, and the two of them were the best gymnasts at their clubs, respectively.

Once they had the opportunity to train with another gymnast of their skill, Ramler and Loper did not step away from embracing a relationship that became one of the most special in college gymnastics.

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

Ramler and Loper mentioned how fortunate they were to come into the program as freshmen and have great mentors in senior leaders, such as Rachel Rowland and Hannah Hitchcock, with whom they remain in contact.

The two positive-minded seniors helped guide the future program-changing duo through the culture and environment of college gymnastics while reminding them to have fun and not take themselves too seriously.

“They taught us how to have fun and enjoy every day,” Loper said. “Hannah would always just say, ‘It is just gymnastics. Put that in perspective. It’s not the end of the world if you mess up.’ I think that’s helped every single year reduce the pressure a little bit in competitions and just allowed me to have a lot more fun.”

Reflecting on some of their favorite moments of their gymnastics careers, Ramler and Loper turned to perfect 10s. The duo combined for 10 throughout their careers.

In her junior season (2020) against Illinois, Ramler recorded a perfect 10 for the second time in her career to put the roaring crowd on their feet and become the first Gophers gymnast to reach perfection at Maturi Pavilion.

Less than two months later, Loper tallied the first perfect 10 of her career on vault against North Carolina State shortly before COVID-19 caused the 2020 season to end abruptly.

Ramler and Loper will leave the program with everlasting memories and impacts on teammates, coaches, fans, and the rest of the gymnastics world, which has yet to sink in for the duo.

“I don’t even understand how much of an impact we have been able to make,” Ramler said. “I know that we’ve been a part of something really cool and really great, but I think it’s going to take a while to really understand the amount of impact that we’ve actually been able to make on this team and this program. But it’s been something that I think both of us are super grateful to be a part of and have enjoyed every single bit.”

Loper will graduate this month with a master’s in epidemiology, while Ramler will finish her master’s in human resources and industrial relations this fall.

Ramler hopes to stay involved in gymnastics through different outreaches, such as coaching or camps. Loper will not be involved quite as much but mentioned she would continue to be a supportive alum for her Gophers family.

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