By Jeff Shearer
Lexus Demers caught the gymnastics bug at age 6, watching the 2000 Olympics.
"I was like, `Mom, put me in, I'm good,'" she says.
Sixteen years and three Grabas later, Demers hopes to conclude her career by helping Auburn return to the Super Six at the NCAA Championships in April.
"You could say I don't ever think there's been a point in time where I haven't been coached by a Graba, so it's been a long journey," Demers says.
Bridget Graba, wife of Auburn gymnastics coach Jeff Graba, first tutored Demers on the "Hot Shots" squad at the Graba's Midwest Gymnastics gym in Minnesota.
"When she was really little, she was in a group of gymnasts who were at the same level, but who ranged in age from little ones up to teenagers," Bridget remembers. "And when she would get frustrated about something, she would crawl onto one of the older girl's laps."
Bridget helped Demers reach level six, then Jeff took over. Demers mastered more skills, advancing to level 10.
When Jeff moved into college coaching, as an assistant at Utah State in 2004, his twin brother, Jess, continued Demers' training.
"She was strong, flexible, competitive and took direction pretty well," Jess says. "And she had a very good demeanor for working. When she worked out, she always wanted to be the best."
That work ethic created opportunities for Demers to earn a gymnastics scholarship. Some of the country's elite programs showed interest.
While she contemplated her options, Auburn hired Jeff, then an assistant at Utah, to be the Tigers' head coach, starting with the 2011 season.
For Demers, who was not considering Auburn before Graba's hiring, that settled it.
"To me, it's a lot of pride because it says that we're doing something right," Jeff says. "She wasn't afraid to continue to commit to our coaching style. To me, it's a source of pride with how we coached her. I felt like my wife did a good job. My brother did a good job. Obviously, she's an All-SEC kid for a reason, so it's a big deal."
"It indicated the commitment she had to Jeff as a coach," Jess says. "I think that says a lot about her. She wanted to go somewhere where she was comfortable and trusted the coaching. She had chances to go elsewhere and she went basically blindly into Auburn. I think she just loves the decision now."
After redshirting in 2012, Demers' development mirrors Auburn's rise.
She earned All-SEC honors in 2015, helping the Tigers reach the NCAA Super Six for the first time in 22 years.
"Lexus was always a hard worker," Bridget says. "I'm happy to see her achieve this success, knowing how hard she has worked."
Demers says the Graba twins may be identical, but their respective levels of gymnastics require differing approaches.
"They're very similar, especially with the way they joke around," Demers says. "When you're in club gymnastics, it's more about getting the numbers, and going through the hard times, and working new skills.
"Jeff, in collegiate gymnastics, it's more, `Take care of your body. Do minimal numbers, but do it the right way. Use your training that you have,'" she says. "I would say they're very similar in who they are, but in terms of gymnastics, they have to look at it differently."
"We're just ecstatic for her," says Jess, who still runs the Midwest Gymnastics Club in the Twin Cities. "She's done such a good job. Really proud of the work she's done. How mature she is. What a good kid she's turned into. A good leader on her team. She was always a good leader on our team. We're all very proud here. And I'm sure Jeff and Bridget are as well."
Indeed, they are.
"I take a lot of pride in it," Jeff says. "Not just for me, but for her. She's worked her whole career to get herself to this level. I'm just glad I didn't mess her up. She's done a really good job."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer