AYF Olympics: Kaiserians, Tutunjian Swim to Nobility Rank

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Lynne Tutunjian came ready to swim. Whether or not she broke the 50-yard record in the breast stroke remained to be seen.

Had she not been pushed to the brink by Philly’s Lara Kaiserian, she may not have enjoyed her moment in the limelight. In the process, she rewrote the mark previously set in 1986 by Ani Mekjian.

“I knew Lara was an excellent swimmer,” said Tutunjian. “We met a year ago and she beat me. This time it was my turn. I had a good kick and a fast turnaround after a bad start. It helps to be pushed.”

And had she not put aside her track prowess at Bentley and turned to the pool, success may not have intervened. Lynne came to Bentley deciding to run. Four years later, she tried out and made the swim team.

“My first reaction was that this would be a big commitment,” said her coach Mary Kay Samko. “Lynne came to the first couple of practices and showed she was willing to put in the extra time.”

Previous to this, Tutunjian hadn’t competed in a swim meet since her senior year at Worcester Academy when she captained the swim team as well as cross country and track.

She became the first senior “rookie” to compete for Bentley aquatics and finished fifth in team scoring while earning team “swimmer of the meet” honors twice.

Lynne truly outdid herself in the New England Swimming and Diving Championships by receiving medals in all three of her events—the 50 fly (28.48), 100 fly (1:02.38), and 200 fly (2:20.62). The best swimmers in Divisions 2 and 3 competed in the meet.

This marked her fifth year of AYF competition and triple gold, also winning the 25 free (12.50) and 25 fly (12.97). The 22-year-old now has 73 career points and is well on her way to the top. She’s had triple gold every year except last when she ended second in the 25 fly. Next year it’s on to Philly and hopefully, more of the same.

Tutunjian graduated in May with an accounting degree and will work for Price, Waterhouse, Coopers in the auditing section.

“My mother [Shooshan] has the 800 record (2:28.5) and I try to live up to her standards,” said Lynne. “I’m so happy to be involved because it motivates me to do my best.”

Also special to her was the presence of her grandparents, Alice and Bob Tutunjian, sitting in the stands and cheering her on. But the loudest hurrah in the crowd came from her Dad who was poolside when the time was announced. Bob coaches the Providence team.

“I heard him yell. He loves it. So does Mom.”

The Kaiserians are creating their own reputation in the fast lane. Count them. There’s siblings Dan, Mike, and Lara, along with cousin Brian Kavjian. Among them, they secured 18 medals and enjoyed a sibling rivalry in the 100 free. That’s where Michael turned the tables on Daniel for the high scorer’s trophy.

Hey, it’s all in the family here. The last two years, Daniel emerged with triple gold. Now, it was younger brother Michael’s turn.

What’s more, all four have Penn State ties. Mike is currently training there in the sprint freestyles. His time of 20.70 in the 50 free ranked him among the top 200 collegians in the country and could qualify for the Olympic Trials next summer. That’s his goal anyway.

“Beating my brother for the first time in three years was a personal highlight for me,” he admitted. “We’ve always had a friendly rivalry.”

“I love the networking in the AYF. Even those who go away to school come back for this. It‘s made me a better Armenian. I‘m glad to be here with my family and friends.”

What does it take to be a front-line swimmer at Penn State? Kaiserian swims 10 two-hour sessions a week over six days, complemented by three weight-training workouts and two other core-strength sessions. Then come the meets, invitational and championship meets.

“My brother is my role model,” says Michael. “He’s one of the hardest workers I know.”

Then, there’s the subject of tattoos. Dan has the Armenian tri-color on his back with Ararat in the foreground. Mike has the Penn State Nittany Lion in red, blue, and orange.

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Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
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1 Comment

  1. Glad to see the traditions of the AYF Olympics continues, much fun and memories at these games.  Meeting fellow Hyes throughout the USA and abroad. 

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