With its kips and saltos and Yurchenkos, gymnastics has a language all its own. That vocabulary presented a pair of distinct challenges to the Gophers’ Ivy Lu and Lexy Ramler, giving them a special appreciation for their sport’s lingo.
Lu, a sophomore, had to learn to translate those terms from French to English when she came to the U from her native Montreal. Ramler, a freshman, wanted to add a word to the gymnastics dictionary — a bars skill named for her — and spent hours in the gym creating and perfecting a new move.
Both will compete in Saturday’s NCAA regional at Maturi Pavilion, where mathematics will be more critical than language arts. The No. 24 Gophers must finish in the top two of a tough six-team field to move on to the NCAA championships later this month in St. Louis. To get there, they will need Lu and Ramler to continue to put up the kind of scores that made them the team’s most decorated athletes this season.
Last week, Ramler earned three All-America citations — first team on balance beam and second team on uneven bars and all-around — and Lu was named to the first team on bars. That added to their accolades at the Big Ten championships, where Lu won the bars title and Ramler was named the league’s freshman of the year.
“Usually, you see these kinds of performances from more veteran performers,” Gophers coach Jenny Hansen said. “What they’ve done this season has been really impressive.
“Ivy learned a lot her freshman year, and we knew Lexy would be pretty fantastic when we got her. What they do, they do flawlessly. That comes from their background of elite-level training, which really shows through.”
Though Ramler is from St. Michael, she and her mother, Marlene, spent weekdays in Winona for several years so Lexy could train at KidSport Gymnastics. Staying close to home for college has allowed her to catch up on some of the family time she missed.
She adapted quickly to college gymnastics, scoring 9.9 or higher eight times on beam and seven times on bars. Ramler won eight all-around titles this season, and her top score of 39.600 was the best in the Big Ten. But her biggest thrill in gymnastics happened last year, when she got “The Ramler” recognized as an official bars skill.
“You go from the low bar to the high bar backwards, with a full twist when you catch the high bar,” she said. “I’d been playing with it for years. Getting a skill named after me has been on my bucket list. It’s really fun to say, ‘I’m going to go work on my Ramler.’ ”
Lu made history for the Gophers this season, distinguishing herself on bars and beam. She scored 9.975 on bars — tying the program record — in back-to-back meets. At the Big Ten Championships, she became the first Gopher to win a bars title since 2002 with a score of 9.950, one of six times this season Lu reached or surpassed that mark.
Though bars is her best and favorite event, Lu also surprised herself with a perfect 10 on beam at February’s GymQuarters Invitational to tie another Gophers record. She earned that score by taking her time and focusing on each skill, an approach that’s also helped her navigate a language barrier.
Lu speaks Chinese with her parents, who emigrated from China to Canada. In the gym, and with her sister and her friends in Montreal, French was the language of choice. Though Lu also speaks English, she had never used it with her coaches until she came to the U.
“It was a big challenge,” she said. “Every single skill has a different name in English, so I had to get used to it. You use your hands, or do whatever you need to do to figure it out.”
Hansen said Lu, Ramler and the rest of the Gophers have improved steadily this season but still have not reached their peak. They are happy to be hosting the regional, knowing they will be comfortable on the equipment and well supported by their fan base.
Looking ahead, Hansen hopes to add floor exercise to Lu’s menu of events and insert some higher-scoring skills into Ramler’s routines. All the Gophers want this weekend is for both to repeat this season’s greatest hits.
“They just need to do what they’ve been doing all season long,” Hansen said. “They’ve been pretty great.”