Kofmehl seeks to create lasting impact

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

As she competed in the all-around at the 2021 Salt Lake NCAA Regionals, senior Tara Kofmehl knew she wouldn’t be at this important milestone without her hard work and the teammates and coaches who have supported her since day one.

Kofmehl, an accounting graduate from Mesa, Arizona, has been a gymnast all her life. From an early age, she tries 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 played sports, so my mum would take her to class and I would sit in the audience and imitate everything she did. My mom dumped me because I was already doing it.

Kofmehl trained to improve as she got older, all while being passionate about the sport.

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

A house in DeKalb, Illinois

Prior to coming to NIU, Kofmehl competed as a level 10 gymnast at Arizona Dynamics and won major awards such as Rookie of the Year in 2015, Most Improved Gymnast in 2017, and Team Leader of his Dynamics team. in 2018. She also competed in the USAG Regional and National Championships every year from 2015 to 2018.

After graduating from Red Mountain High School, Kofmehl credits the coaches and the atmosphere as the reasons for choosing NIU to pursue his career as a gymnast.

“During my visit, I loved the coaches and the team atmosphere,” Kofmehl said. “It felt like home and I’m really happy with my decision to come here.”

A close-knit team beyond mere competition

Tara Kofmehl, then a junior, competes in the Illinois State Quad Meet on March 7 during the 2021 season. The Huskies finished third in the event behind Central Michigan University and Illinois State University. (Photo courtesy of Tara Kofmehl)

Kofmehl knows that it’s 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 supports each other,” Kofmehl said. “You know you can go to any member of the team with any issues you have. Everyone has complete confidence in you as you prepare to do your routine, whatever it is. We we are all like a family here.

Head coach Sam Morreale recognizes what a talent and special person Kofmehl is and believes she is an essential part of this team.

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

Kofmehl’s teammates also say she is an excellent, compassionate and competitive leader.

“Tara is such a good leader,” Gabby Welch said. “She is very humble, always does her best in training and is very calm and balanced no matter the situation.”

An Unforgettable NCAA Regional Experience

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

“It was such a cool experience,” Kofmehl said. “It was so cool to be up there with all these top gymnasts and hopefully we can get there as a team this year.”

Although she went to Regionals, Kofmehl knows her job is not done and there is a long season ahead of her.

“It’s what you do here and now that will get you to regionals,” Kofmehl said. “Every meeting is another opportunity to bring you closer to this stage, so I take every meeting very seriously.”

Leave 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 left a different mark on the program.

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

Kofmehl will have plenty of other opportunities to show why she’s coming back to regionals, starting with the Huskies’ first home meeting Friday at 6:00 p.m. CT at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. NIU will host the NIU Quad Meet with Lindenwood University, Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.