From Greenbrier to DeKalb: Welch sisters seek to leave impression on NIU

Reagan Welch is in her first year as a Huskie after following older sister Gabby to NIU.


Left: Senior gymnast Gabby Welch performs on floor exercise during a dual meet against Illinois State University on Feb. 13 in DeKalb. (Zohair Khan/Northern Star). Right: Freshman women’s tennis player Reagan Welch competes in a home match against the University of St. Francis on Feb. 11 at Chick Evans Field House in DeKalb. (Summer Fitzgerald/Northern Star)

By Noah Silver, Sports Reporter

From playing in the backyard as kids to competing at the same college, siblings Gabby and Reagan Welch have been each other’s biggest supporters, best friends and most importantly, sisters.

Growing up in Greenbrier, Tennessee, senior psychology major Gabby and freshman psychology major Reagan have always been close, whether they were spending time with family or being ultra competitive in daily activities.

Little sister Reagan grew up looking towards Gabby as a role model. She might not know why she did it at the time, but back then, nobody in the world was cooler than big sis.

“She definitely was a role model when I was growing up,” Reagan said “I liked to get inspired by things that she did. I liked looking up to her and I always wanted to do everything she did. I thought she was so cool, I don’t know why.”

The path to DeKalb

Gabby’s journey brought her to DeKalb in 2017, receiving an offer from NIU to continue competing as a gymnast and working on her craft.

She was definitely a role model when I was growing up.

— Freshman Reagan Welch on sister Gabby Welch

“I specifically wanted to do gymnastics at NIU because I felt like they had a really good team chemistry going on,” Gabby said. “I really like the coaches and I felt like everyone was very up front with no show going on. You knew exactly what you were going to get. It was a very genuine atmosphere.”

Reagan, on the other hand, wanted to stay close to her big sister while finding a good place to hone her skills as a tennis player and get better as an athlete.

“I came to NIU because I liked it here when I came to visit Gabby and there were a lot of good opportunities for me on the tennis team,” Reagan said. “I knew I wanted to go somewhere more north because I like playing indoors and I also wanted to commit early. Everything worked out to end up here at NIU.”

From one sister to another

Of course, big sister Gabby had some advice for her little sister about college.

“Be disciplined in managing your time wisely so you have time to go hang out with your friends and meet new people,” Gabby said. “When you’re a freshman, that circle of people that you’re able to be in contact with closes the older you get. Just make time to have fun because time goes by really fast.”

Obviously, no story about sisters would be complete without them sharing an embarrassing moment of each other.

“Once, Reagan went to the dentist and they told her she had a cavity,” Gabby said. “She was so distraught that she went and hid in our backwoods for four hours and said she wasn’t coming back. Well the cavity wasn’t getting any better in the woods, so she came back for dinner. It was just a tough afternoon for her.”

“Gabby stole my birthday present one year and gave it to my friend,” Reagan added. “I’m still not over it.”

One career finishing, another just starting

As Gabby’s time in DeKalb comes to a close, she reflects on the legacy she hopes she left for the next wave of gymnasts.

“There have been challenges along the way and I have had many ups and downs in my time here,” Gabby said. “I hope to leave the feeling of everyone being close and relaxed. We talk all the time about how important gymnastics is and how important success is as a whole. That stems from our individual relationship and confidence in each other. I hope that I helped grow that dynamic and synergy between us.”

From one leaving to one staying, Reagan hopes she can learn from the seniors on her squad.

“I hope to learn how to be a hard worker and how to be a strong team leader,” Reagan said. “I look up to a lot of the girls and a lot of the older girls look out for us. I hope I can lead by example and be a good teammate to everyone.”

Gabby’s next action with the NIU gymnastics team will come at 6 p.m. Friday when Ball State University comes to the Convocation Center.

Reagan’s next opportunity will come at 1 p.m. Saturday when the women’s tennis team takes on the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.