The year 2020 was shaping up to be a special one for Lexy Ramler.
The University of Minnesota gymnast and Winona Senior High graduate was fresh off a sophomore campaign that solidified her status as one of the top NCAA gymnasts when she became the first in program history to earn first-team All-America honors in four events at the NCAA Division I National Championships. That included runner-up finishes in the all-around and uneven parallel bars.
The hometown kid was no longer the underdog — a role she embraced — but instead was now a powerhouse name across the gymnastics world, becoming must-see TV every time she stepped up for an event.
And boy, did she constantly deliver.
Ramler became the first in program history to record multiple scores of 10 in the same season when she accomplished the feat in back-to-back weekends in mid-January. She was the No. 1 gymnast on the beam throughout the season and was prime to win a national championship as the calendar flipped to March with her ranked in the top 10 in the country on the vault, bars and all-around.
Then the world stopped.
The Gophers were getting ready to host the defending national champion Oklahoma in front of a sold out crowd for senior night on March 14. Soon, it was announced that spectators wouldn’t be allowed to attend. A few hours later, the season itself had been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just like that. No meet against Oklahoma, no Big Ten Championships, no NCAA championships. Season over.
“It was a shock, like it’s really done?” said Ramler, who was the Big Ten Gymnast and the NCAA Region 2 gymnast of the year in 2020. “The day after my roommates and I went and got our nails done and we were talking like, ‘It’s really done? But I’m not finished yet?’ The whole thing of it was just this unfinished business.”
Ramler and her Gopher teammates then dispersed to their hometowns, unsure of when they would be able to get back into the gym together.
It turned out to be a while. Months, in fact.
“I had never taken, I would say, a week to two weeks off from gymnastics, ever,” She said with a laugh. “Then here we are, taking two months off. You ask yourself, am I going to lose my skills? Am I going to lose my muscles? There was just so much more to the situation. Like, this is what I do every single day.”
But there was a silver lining.
“It was just a huge life change. I know for me personally, it helped me focus on what I’m grateful for and taking time to really just spend time with my family,” Ramler said. “I was so grateful for the opportunity just to connect with my family more.”
When Ramler and her teammates were finally able to come back together, it was different in so many ways. Not only because of the COVID-19 protocols in place, but because of the simple fact that a whole team of gymnasts had just gone the most time they have ever had without participating in some form of gymnastics.
“When you get back into gymnastics you still have those fears, you know, ‘Do I remember how to do this?’” Ramler said. “‘It was such a huge learning experience for me. I didn’t think I would ever have to relearn my dismount on bars. But here I was relearning the dismount on bars. It just shows you have to adapt, you have to gain from the experiences. I know as an individual, I’ve grown a lot.”
They reconvened, too, not knowing if they would have a season or what it would look like. Everyday in the summer than the fall, Ramler and her teammates showed up to practice not knowing what the next 24 hours held.
“It was so hard, because the preseason is already so hard,” Ramler said. “So to not even know if all this work that you’re putting in is going to actually be shown to the world. Is this worth it? But I just went back to that I love the sport. I love flipping, I love twisting. I love the sport of gymnastics. So every day that I had the opportunity to be able to get into the gym, to train, to just do the thing that I love, I’ll take that any day and every day for the rest of my life.”
The Gophers were given the green light to go ahead with a shortened season that involved conference opponents only. But that didn’t matter to the Gophers. They had a season, which meant they could settle that unfinished business that was taken from them. And Ramler was poised to make the most of it.
She has delivered a senior season for the ages.
She has been named Big Ten Gymnast of the week six times — out of 10 weeks — and broke her own all-around program record earlier on Feb. 26 when she recorded a career-high 39.850 in the all-around at the Big Five Meet. She has recorded two perfect 10s -- one on vault and one on beam -- and has won 27 event titles so far.
She enters Friday’s NCAA Athens Regional ranked No. 2 in the nation in the all-around and currently sits at No. 1 on beam, No. 3 on bars, No. 5 on vault and No. 28 on floor. At the Big Ten Championships on March 20, she won three individual titles on bars, beam and in the all-around en route to being named the Big Ten Gymnast of the Year for the third straight season. She is also one of six finalists for the prestigious AAI Award, which recognizes the most outstanding senior female gymnast in the country.
All the individual accolades are great, but anyone that knows Ramler will tell you it means more to her to see her teammates do well. That's what has made this unique season even more special for Ramler is that the team is close with one another. They have been isolated together in their own bubble for months now and the results have come out in the forms of an unmatched chemistry.
All of that came together at the Big Ten Championships when the No. 7 ranked Gophers won the team title for the first time since 2006.
“I think that’s the coolest part, is that it was such a team effort," Ramler said. "Everybody came in so confident and just wanting to hit their stuff. The stars aligned and it was an incredible experience just to be there with the team after everything this year."
The Gophers and Ramler now enter Friday's regional in hopes of advancing to the NCAA championships in Fort Worth, Texas on April 16-17. Theoretically, it could be the last meets of Ramler's career as she has not officially announced if she will use the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted to all athletes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramler has not made any official announcements, but did hint at a possible return as she will be attending graduate school at Minnesota for human resources and industrial relations.
"I don't have anything officially said," Ramler said. "It is difficult to say no to another year of a sport that I absolutely love."