Yale Athletics

Yale gymnasts dominated the competition in the John J. Lee Amphitheater last Sunday in a meet dedicated to Yale gymnastics legends Barbara and Don Tonry, the former of whom recently passed away. 

The gymnasts posted their second-highest score of the season, 194.075, improving upon the mark they set last week at the “My Cause, My Ribbon” meet against Temple. Overall, they scored almost two points above the runner-up, Southern Connecticut State University. The meet honored the founder of Yale Women’s Gymnastics, Barbara Tonry, and her husband, Don Tonry. 

“Losing Barb was very hard for the team as she was everyone’s hype woman, always managed to put a smile on our faces and believed in us when we did not even believe in ourselves,” said Cassie Clement ’23. “Barb started the Yale gymnastics program from the ground up and has left her mark on not only our program but on NCAA gymnastics as a whole.”

Barbara died of cancer on July 12, 2021, after leading the program at Yale since its inception in 1973. Ms. Tonry had achieved many titles, including but not limited to 16 Ivy League championships, membership in the U.S. Gymnastics Federation Hall of Fame and the Texas Hall of Fame and the title of the longest-tenured coach in NCAA gymnastics.

The meet, which used to be called the Don Tonry Invitational, is now known as the Tonry Invitational. 

“My class, the class of 2023, had the pleasure of being the last class to be coached by Barb our freshman year,” Clement said. “She transformed my view of the sport and honestly of myself and I cannot thank her enough for everything she did for me and this team.”

Clement entered college gymnastics with a chronic injury that ended her career early. However, she recalled Barbara believing in her even when she struggled to believe in herself. Barbara continued to be supportive even when Clement informed her that she was medically retiring from the sport. 

Regardless of whether they had known or met the Tonrys personally, the entire team performed this past Sunday in honor of the couple. 

Oren Aviad ’25 and Gigi Sabatini ’26 earned tying scores of 9.725 on the vault, both with variations of a Yurkchenko twisting vault. Continuing their strong uneven bars streak, the team scored a 48.675 on the chalked-up two wooden bars. Raegan Walker ’23, who recently was named GEC gymnast of the week, and Sherry Wang ’24 both performed solid routines, each ending with a stuck landing on their respective dismounts.

Coming in right behind the uneven bars was the daunting balance beam, which saw the gymnasts collectively score a 48.550, with almost no wobbles. Megan Brueck ’26 worked hard to make the balance beam line-up, making her successful debut this past weekend in the event. 

Additionally, Sabatini and Emma Mangiacapre ’24 made their individual debuts on the floor exercise. The floor event only had one major mistake, leading to a 48.425 event score by the team. 

Regarding the three gymnasts taking on new events, team captain Aimee Titche ’23 said, “All three of these routines on Sunday were outstanding and showed the drive each of them has to contribute to YGT in any way possible.”

Many of the past team members, including Titche, did not know how ill Barbara was until she passed. Titche said that the passing of her old coach was sudden, so she had no time to thank her for all that she had done for her. 

“To me, each Tonry Invitational is another chance to thank Barb for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such an outstanding organization with such an amazing group of women,” Titche said. “When I step out onto the competition floor, I know everything I do will be for her, for this team, and for the program as a whole.” 

Barbara’s husband Don Tonry, who passed away in 2013, also contributed significantly to Yale gymnastics, transforming the Yale Gymnastic Club into the varsity men’s team that won three straight Ivy League Gymnastic Championships. In addition, he was Yale’s associate director for physical education at the time and taught a class on movement at the drama school that included Meryl Streep ’75.

This meet is also a chance for Yale gymnastics alumni to come and celebrate the coaches’ legacy. 

“Every year, the alumni leave with the confidence that Barb and Don’s work was not in vain; that YGT is here to stay and will continue to thrive and grow as time goes on,” Titche said. 

In the coming weeks, the team will be preparing for the Ivy League Championship in Providence, Rhode Island, by working on their landings, details and consistency.

Barbara Tonry won the AAU Sullivan Award in 1954 and 1958.

Paloma Vigil is the Arts Editor for the Yale Daily News. She previously served as a DEI co-chair and staff reporter for the University and Sports desks. Past coverage includes religious life, Yale College Council, sailing and gymnastics. Originally from Miami, she is a junior in Pauli Murray College majoring in Psychology and Political Science.