Kofmehl seeks to create lasting impact

A combination of hard work and support has set gymnast Tara Kofmehl up to leave a lasting legacy at NIU.


Photo courtesy of Tara Kofmehl

Then-junior Tara Kofmehl competes on the floor team in a meet against Kent State University on Feb. 27 during the 2021 season. NIU ended the event with a 194.825-194.775 victory.

As she competed in the all-around at the 2021 NCAA Salt Lake Regionals, senior Tara Kofmehl knew that she would not be at this important stage without her hard work and the teammates and coaches who have helped her since day one.

Kofmehl, an accounting major from Mesa, Arizona, has been a gymnast her whole life. From a young age, she has been trying to imitate those around her and tumble like her sister.

“I started gymnastics when I was two years old,” Kofmehl said. “I have an older sister and she was in the sport, so my mom would take her to class and I would sit in the audience and imitate everything that she did. My mom threw me in because I was already doing it.”

Kofmehl trained to get better as she got older, while also gaining a passion for the sport in the process. 

“I went to a club gym called Arizona Dynamics that was very family business-driven,” Kofmehl said. “My coaches were three sisters and the owner was their mom…They definitely had the biggest impact on my gymnastics career. I was with them for 18 years and helped me grow up and taught me everything I know about gymnastics.”

A home in DeKalb, Illinois

Prior to coming to NIU, Kofmehl competed as a level 10 gymnast at Arizona Dynamics and took home great awards such as rookie of the year in 2015, most improved gymnast in 2017 and team leader of her Dynamics team in 2018. She also competed in the USAG regional and state championships every year from 2015 to 2018. 

After graduating from Red Mountain High School, Kofmehl credits the coaches and atmosphere as reasons for choosing NIU to continue her gymnastics career.

“When I visited, I loved the coaches and the team atmosphere,” Kofmehl said. “It just felt like a home fit and I’m really happy with my decision to come here.”

A team bonded in more than just competition

Then-junior Tara Kofmehl competes at the Illinois State Quad Meet on Mar. 7 during the 2021 season. The Huskies finished third at the event behind Central Michigan University and Illinois State University. (Photo courtesy of Tara Kofmehl)

Kofmehl knows that this is not just an individual sport and that the team is so important, believing that the Huskies are a special group of girls.

“I think everyone on this team really has each other’s back,” Kofmehl said. “You know you can go to anyone on the team for any issue you’re having. Everyone has full trust in you when you’re stepping up to do your routine, no matter what it is. We are all just like family here.”

Head coach Sam Morreale recognizes how special of a talent and person Kofmehl is and believes she is a vital piece of this team.

“Tara is an amazing athlete,” Morreale said. “She is super talented and knows she has to work for everything. She’s also arguably the best contributor this year and I do feel she works her way into those positions. Not only can she help the team to qualify for regionals, but if we fall short, I expect her to qualify again.”

Kofmehl’s teammates also say she is a great leader who is compassionate and competitive.

“Tara is such a good leader,” senior Gabby Welch said. “She’s very humble, always doing the most at practice and is very calm and even-keeled, no matter the situation.”

An NCAA Regional experience to remember

Kofmehl competed in the NCAA Salt Lake Regionals in 2021, scoring a 9.875 on floor exercise, a 9.800 on vault, a 9.800 on uneven parallel bars and a 9.700 on balance beam to finish with an all around score of 39.175, the highest score by an NIU all-arounder in school history.

“That was such a cool experience,” Kofmehl said. “It just felt so cool to be up there with all of those top gymnasts and I hope we can get there as a team this year.”

Although she went to Regionals, Kofmehl knows that her work isn’t done and that there is a long season ahead of her.

“It’s what you are doing here and now that will get you to regionals,” Kofmehl said. “Each meet is another opportunity to get you closer to that step, so I take each meet very seriously.”

Leaving a lasting mark on Huskie gymnastics

Kofmehl knows her time at NIU is coming to an end and, while everyone cares about personal accolades, Kofmehl hopes she will have left a different kind of mark on the program.

“I hope to have left a really good impact on the team and helped NIU to get one step better and to have left the program one step better than it was when I started here,” Kofmehl said.

Kofmehl will have many more opportunities to show why she belongs back in regionals, starting with the Huskies’ first home meet Friday at 6 p.m. CT at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. NIU will host the NIU Quad Meet featuring Lindenwood University, Southeast Missouri State University, and the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.