November 20, 2018 09:41 AM

She may have lost the mirrorball trophy, but Alexis Ren certainly didn’t go home from Dancing with the Stars empty-handed!

The 21-year-old Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue’s 2018 Rookie of the Year placed fourth on Monday’s Dancing With the Stars finale. But her romance with dance partner Alan Bersten — which blossomed before viewers’ eyes on this season of the hit ABC competition series — has left her with the ultimate prize.

“I feel like I won!” she told Entertainment Tonight after the show, cuddling closely with Bersten, 24.

Though it appeared Ren dropped the “L” word in a pre-tapped package that aired during the finale, she clarified to ET that she still hasn’t said it, explaining that the DWTS team had done some clever editing.

“They cut it! I really felt love in myself,” she said. “Honestly, I have no idea where that came from.”

RELATED: Alan Bersten Kisses Partner Alexis Ren After Admitting He’s ‘Falling’ for Her

Still, Ren and Bersten have hit a milestone in their relationship. Before they danced in the finale, she met his parents, who were visiting from out of town.

“They’re so cute!” she told the outlet of her partner’s family.

Asked what his parents thought of Ren, Bersten gushed, “What can you not think of her? She’s such a sweet person and she’s so caring and it’s amazing.”

Alexis Ren and Alan Bersten
Alexis Ren/Instagram

Speaking to PEOPLE and other reporters after the finale, Ren said she has “never felt more [like] myself.”

“After each dance I found a new side of myself that I didn’t even know I had, so at the end of this, I’m just standing here and thinking I won,” she gushed.

As for what the future holds for her and Bersten?

“I mean, we’ll see, we’re allowed to be normal people for a few days now,” Bersten said. “We’ve been in the studio everyday for hours, so it’ll be nice to relax.”

Looking back, Ren has no regrets about the romance playing out on TV.

“I’m a very honest person and I wear my heart on my sleeve,” she said. “I’m still learning in the entertainment industry how to pull myself and speak. I think both of us were 100 percent ourselves on this journey and I don’t regret any of it.

“It was an incredible journey,” Bersten agreed. “Do I wish it was my subtle? Yes. Do I regret it? No.”

Radio show host Bobby Bones and dancing pro Sharna Burgess were named the season 27 champs.

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