'Honestly it didn't feel real': Gophers celebrate Ona Loper's Perfect 10 before hosting Oklahoma

Gopher gymnast Ona Loper scored a Perfect 10 on the vault last weekend at N.C. State, the team's third this season. ((credit: University of Minnesota))

Ona Loper got to witness her teammate Lexy Ramler experience the thrill of a Perfect 10 earlier this season, not once, but twice.

So when Loper got her chance in the spotlight last weekend in a meet for the University of Minnesota gymnastics team at N.C. State, she was going to soak it in with her teammates. Vault performances only take a few seconds, but the end result is something Loper will take with her the rest of her life.

A South Carolina native, Loper had family and friends in attendance at the meet as she stuck the landing on her vault. The only formality left was the score. As they celebrated knowing she had done her best performance of the season, the Gophers erupted when they saw her score: A Perfect 10.

Ramler had done it twice on the balance beam this season, but this was the first one on vault.

“Honestly it didn’t really feel real. It took a little bit of time for it to sink in that I actually got a perfect 10. Just having my teammates with me, it was super exciting,” Loper said.

What made it all the more impressive? Loper was coming off a battle with the flu. It was one piece of a record-setting night for the Gophers, who put up a score of 197.625 to win the dual meet. It’s their highest score this season, and second-highest in program history.

“It was so much fun and to be honest, we weren’t even really focusing on the outcome and that’s why we did so well. We were just focusing on being in moments, supporting each other, having fun and when they do that, they’re more relaxed and they just do what they can do in here,” Gophers coach Jenny Hansen said. “Which is when we see all the greatness.”

The night included 10 career-high individual scores, and a podium sweep on the vault, bars, balance beam and individual all-around. But the night belonged to Loper.

“Ona hitting that vault finally, she does beautiful vaults in practice. To finally just see her hit that, the team was just so excited and we were absolutely just thrilled for her,” Ramler said.

They celebrated the historic night, and moved on. While most students are off campus for Spring Break this week, the team is spending a majority of its time at Peik Gym. The No. 10-ranked Gophers host Oklahoma Saturday night at Maturi Pavilion.

The venue is sold out with a capacity crowd expected. The Sooners are the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, and they feature a pair of Minnesotans in former Roseville star Maggie Nichols and Champlin Park star Olivia Trautman. They haven’t lost a dual meet in two years, and won the 2019 national championship.

It’s the final time performing at home for five Minnesota seniors. It’s a pivotal chance for the Gophers to improve their national ranking, with the top eight teams in the country after regionals advancing to the NCAA Championships.

“We’ve talked much about enjoying the moment because this is such a special day for us. It’s Senior Night, but it’s a record crowd. None of them have been able to experience something like that before,” Hansen said. “We want to just enjoy the moment, feel the energy, feel the excitement and let that help us raise to a new level.”

“I think it’s just going to be really exciting. I think we’re just going to make it a really memorable night. Obviously it’s Senior Night, so we’re going to honor them, but I think it’s just going to be a really fun night,” Loper said.

Fans will want to stay locked into the action. With two of the top-10 teams in the country under the bright lights, there could be more Perfect 10s coming.

After facing Oklahoma, the Gophers head to Ohio for the Big Ten Championships. Their biggest competition for the Big Ten title will be No. 7-ranked Michigan.