Having been an AYF member in New England, starting off as a Watertown “Gaidzag,” my only experience of Junior Summer Olympics was on a district level—a one-day event where we would compete against fellow members in our district. As soon as I became a Senior member of the Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter, the Central Junior Council (CJC) started implementing a weekend event at Camp Haiastan. The idea was to emulate the Mid-West Junior Olympics, except this weekend would take place in the fall and would be a combined Olympics for both New England and Mid Atlantic chapters, both of which were lacking attendance when hosting separate summer games.
I recently ventured out to Chicago to experience my first Mid-West Junior Olympics, which was being hosted by the AYF Chicago “Ararat” Chapter and community. For a number of years, I’ve heard such great things about this popular weekend for AYF members. Since I am closing out my AYF career, it was only appropriate that I attend this event to see what it was all about.
The events began with a welcome reception at the All Saints Armenian Apostolic Church in Glenview, Ill. This was a nice opportunity for guests—parents, AYFers, spectators for the weekend—to settle in while they enjoyed a light mezze and great conversation amongst old and new acquaintances.
The following day would be full of intense and very close competition. It was similar to being at AYF Senior Olympics, only the athletes on the track were Juniors representing the Chicago, Detroit, Granite City, and Racine chapters. The weather was terrific, and set the stage for a great afternoon. The track and stands were full of athletes, parents, coaches, AYF Seniors, and AYF alumni. It was great to see how an event like this could draw alumni members who continue to be involved with the AYF. Alec Sarafian, an alumni and a member of the Governing Body, acted as head track official and announcer, with Hagop Soulakian and Ari Killian as lead track officials. A slew of current AYF members and alumni served as timers and officials. It was a great team effort all around.
The opening ceremonies, like its Senior Olympics counterpart, began with a parade of athletes. The master of ceremonies, Unger Ara Surenian, the ARF adviser to the Chicago Junior and Senior chapters, welcomed all the guests to the Windy City and the 40th Mid-West Junior Summer Olympics. Additional remarks were provided by representatives of the AYF’s sister organizations, including Homenetmen and the Armenian Relief Society, as well as Unger Ari Killian of the ARF-Eastern Region CC, Nora Najarian or the AYF Senior Chapter, and Phil Nigon of the AYF Central Executive. A special performance of “Armenyan Hoghuh” by Levon Katerjian, concluded the ceremonies.
There was fierce competition in the running and field events, with some races coming down to a few hundredths of a second. Every athlete did their best and succeeded in crossing the finish line. Though medals were handed out at the end of the track and field events, the winning chapter were announced later that night at the celebratory dance. The Chicago chapter and community hosted a great evening of music and dancing at the church, which featured entertainment by the Mid-East Beat. A brief intermission took place to announce the Olympic high scorers, award recipients, and ultimate victors of the weekend. The Detroit KT juniors celebrated their 4-peat, in what appears to be the closest Midwest Junior Olympics in history, beating Chicago by three points (175 to 172 points).
Each chapter had the opportunity to perform their chapter dance, with parents decorating members with dollar bills. It was great to see such tradition being maintained. The weekend would not have been successful without the great planning of the Chicago chapter and its advisors, and without the dedication and commitment of the parents who continue to support the organization and its events. A big thank you to everyone who ventured out to Chicago for another successful AYF weekend.
Younger Girls: Taleen Shahrigian (Detroit) 100m, 200m, 400m
Younger Boys: Michael Nercessian (Detroit) 50m, 100m, 200m
Older Girls: Sara Dilanjian (Chicago) 100m, 200m, 400m
Older Boys: Zadig Haroian (Chicago) 1600m, high jump, long jump; Aram Pajian (Chicago) 100m, 200m, 400m
1st: Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” (175 pts)
2nd: Chicago “Ararat” (172 pts)
3rd: Granite City “Antranig” (26 pts)
4th: Racine “Armen Garo” (1 pt)
The Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” Uncle Herman Award was awarded to Armen Shahrigian and Maral Toukhanian. The Chicago “Ararat” Tina Peltekian Award went to Sara Dilanjian.