To get to this week's NCAA women's gymnastics championships, Minnesotans just need to drive south on I-35 to Fort Worth, Texas. Not everyone is taking such a direct route.

Several athletes and coaches with Minnesota roots will be coming from places such as Utah, Alabama and Oklahoma, ready to chase team and individual titles at Dickies Arena. Suni Lee (St. Paul/Auburn), Lexy Ramler (St. Michael/Gophers) and Grace McCallum (Isanti/Utah) are ranked among the top six all-arounders in the country. The No. 8 Gophers are among eight programs vying for the team championship.

The ties are just as plentiful on the coaching side. Among head coaches, Utah's Tom Farden (Dayton), Auburn's Jeff Graba (Forest Lake) and Oklahoma's K.J. Kindler (Lake Elmo) are Minnesota natives, as is Michigan associate head coach Scott Sherman (Minneapolis).

"It speaks volumes for how good the gymnastics is in Minnesota,'' said McCallum, who was a teammate of Lee at the Tokyo Olympics. "It's so cool. Even though we're on different teams, we all have that one thing in common. We're Minnesotans at heart.''

How to watch

When: Thursday, team semifinals and individual competition, noon and 5 p.m.; Saturday, team finals, noon

Where: Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, Texas.

TV: Thursday, ESPN2; Saturday, ABC (Ch. 5)

The format: Thursday's semifinals will determine the four teams that move on to the team finals, as well as individual champions in the all-around and all four events. The No. 8 Gophers, No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Utah and No. 5 Alabama will compete in the noon semifinal, with No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Michigan, No. 7 Auburn and No. 11 Missouri in the 5 p.m. semifinal. The top two teams in each session advance to the finals.

Gophers: Two in a row

Last season, Ramler and Ona Loper led the Gophers to a team berth at the NCAA championships for the first time since 2016. As satisfying as that was, the two seniors decided they weren't done yet.

Both decided to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to college athletes because of COVID-19 hardships. Their encore season will end with another shot at an NCAA team championship, the first time in program history the Gophers have qualified as a team in consecutive years. Loper and Ramler went 1-2 in the all-around at the NCAA's Norman Regional to lead the charge.

Ramler enters Thursday's competition ranked fifth nationally in the all-around and tied for fifth on balance beam. Loper is seventh in the all-around and tied for fourth on vault, while sophomore Mya Hooten of Woodbury ranks second in floor exercise.

"The wonderful part about Lexy and Ona is, they've just been so consistent,'' Gophers coach Jenny Hansen said. "Every time out, they just do their job. To have them for five years, it's just been incredible.''

Ramler will end a record-setting career at the NCAA championships. She won seven Big Ten individual titles, tied with Marie Roethlisberger for the most in Gophers history, and she holds or shares the best marks in program history in the all-around, uneven bars, beam and vault.

Suni Lee: Tokyo to Texas

After winning gold in the all-around, bronze on bars and silver in the team competition at last summer's Tokyo Olympics, Lee took an extended break from gymnastics. It didn't take long for her to regain her form.

The freshman won the SEC championship on bars — the first conference title by an Auburn gymnast since 1994 — and was named Region 4 gymnast of the year. Lee already has five perfect-10 scores, two on bars and three on beam. In February, she set a program record with an all-around score of 39.825, and she ranks second in the nation in the all-around behind fellow Olympian Jade Carey of Oregon State.

Lee is the country's top-ranked gymnast on bars and is tied for first on beam.

"She basically took 20 weeks off of gymnastics completely, and I think we're in our 14th week of training,'' Graba said. "I don't know if anybody could do what she did. Only now is she getting back to who she's capable of being on every given night.''

McCallum: Gone west

Like Lee, McCallum began her college gymnastics career after the Tokyo Olympics, where she helped the U.S. to team silver. She's part of a deep Utah roster that also includes Abby Paulson of Anoka.

The Red Rocks won the Pac-12 championship, with Paulson capturing the beam title and McCallum winning on bars and tying for first in floor. McCallum is ranked No. 6 nationally in the all-around and is tied for second on bars, after earning a pair of 10.0 scores this season.

Utah has won nine NCAA team titles and qualified for the team competition with a score of 198.200, highest in its history, at the Seattle Regional.

"On paper, this group is arguably one of the more talented teams we've ever had,'' Faden said.

Others to watch

Two other teams also have Minnesotans on their rosters. Oklahoma's Olivia Trautman of Champlin, the reigning Big 12 vault champion, tied for the top vault score at the NCAA regionals (9.975). Michigan's Abby Brenner (Maple Grove) is a team captain for the Big Ten champions and competes on bars and floor.