By Bob Tutunjian
EAST GREENWICH, R.I.—In New England when someone speaks of dynasties, they are usually referring to a certain NFL team that has won four Super Bowls. But after this past Labor Day, you will have to add the Providence “Varantian” AYF Chapter to the discussion, as they have now won 10 times as many championships. A total of more than 220 athletes participated over the weekend in these 82nd Annual Olympics.
The Green Machine brought a team of 45 members and amassed a total of 204 points, 56 more than Greater Boston. They became the first team to surpass the 200 mark since Philadelphia set the chapter scoring record in 2010. Providence won the swim meet and tennis competition to build a small 9-point lead on Friday. The margin grew to 27 points after the Sunday morning track and field events and kept increasing from there. The Varantians were led by three high scorers, Tarvis Hintlian and siblings Lynne and Stephen Tutunjian. They added pentathlon winner Mark Hamalian and double gold medalist Andrew Hintlian to their usual depth at home. In all, their balanced attack grabbed 18 golds, 10 silvers, and 14 bronzes along with winning 5 relays.
Last year Greater Boston placed 5th in Detroit, scoring only 55 points. This time around, the “Nejdehs” had 35 members entered to increase their total by almost 100 points. They brought their own sibling 15-point scorers with rookie Anoush Krafian and sister Nairi, who won the pentathlon. Boston also had three double gold winners: veteran Michelle Hagopian and newcomers Alex Avakian and Katarena Nalbandian. The Nejdehs took home 11 gold medals along with 8 silvers and 8 bronzes. They also won three relays on the track.
Philadelphia also improved as they came with 19 athletes and moved up to 3rd place with 83 points. They won the men’s golf and scored 25 points in the pool to start the weekend. On Sunday, rookie Masis Mardirosian won both the 100 and 200 to lead the “Sebouhs.” Overall they snatched 5 golds, 8 silvers, and 5 bronze medals.
New Jersey and Worcester tied for 4th place with 43 points. Melanee Melkonian won three events for the “Arams” after scoring 13 points in 2014. Meanwhile the “Arsens” dropped a bit from their 71-point 3rd-place finish in Detroit. They hope to bounce back next year as they host the Games in 2016.
Last year’s host and defending champion, the Detroit chapter, had to settle for 6th place this year with only 29 points. Close behind them was Chicago with 27 points. The “Ararats” came with 16-year-old swimming star Andrew Devedjian, who won both freestyles and almost won the butterfly. The 8th spot went to Most Improved Chapter North Andover with 11 points. New York recorded 8 points while West San Fernando scored 7 for 10th place. Washington, D.C. and San Francisco scored 4 points, while Toronto and Granite City each had 2. Burbank Valley, Glendale, Orange County (all California), and Racine entered but did not score.
There were 5 high scorers with 15 points each, and Providence had 3 of them. Veteran Lynne Tutunjian started things rolling on Friday by winning three events in the pool in her final Olympics. The former Bentley University swimmer won three golds for her seventh time. In doing so she became the all-time AYF women’s scoring leader with 153 career points. Lynne exceeded the old record total of 144 points shared by Jill Tosoian Dolik and Nancy Gavoor, both from Detroit. For good measure, she also broke her own record in the 25 freestyle set in 2004 during her first Olympics. Lynne has a master’s degree in accounting and a CPA and currently works for Arrowstreet Capital in their performance group.
Her brother Stephen swept the 3 jumping events for his 7th high-scorer trophy to bring his career Olympics total to 130 points and retire as the 6th highest man overall. He has scored 15 points for 6 straight years—a longer streak than any other male athlete. It is surpassed only by Michelle Hagopian and Nancy Gavoor, who achieved this feat seven consecutive times. Steve also broke his own record in the triple jump set in 2012. He recently completed his M.S. in bio-engineering from Tufts and is working as a sales support specialist for Brainlab, a medical technology company.
They were joined by Tarvis Hintlian who swept the distance events for the second straight year. Tarvis has run a personal best of 5:20.93 in the mile during her 2014 indoor season. She battled some injuries this past season but was able to get back in shape during the summer.
Anoush Krafian of Greater Boston had the most impressive AYF debut in many years. Anoush won the hurdles as well as the long and high jumps. She set records in the first two events and narrowly missed in the third. The long jump record of 16’10” had been on the books since 1978 and belonged to Christine Varadian Johnson from the host chapter. Anoush tied the old record on her 4th jump and set the new standard of 17’3.25” on her last attempt. The old hurdles mark (16.10) was set in 2007 by Samantha Essian Bagdasarian of Detroit, and Anoush lowered this to 15.76. Anoush set school records in the same two events as a freshman and team MVP for Belmont High School (15.74 for the high hurdles and 17’5.5” in the long jump). She also competed in the New Balance High School Nationals at the Armory in New York City. At that meet she was the second highest finisher among the female freshmen athletes in the high jump.
Worcester’s Melanee Melkonian won three golds by sweeping the 50 and 100 and then took the baseball throw in record fashion. The old record of 211’0” was thrown by Varantian Donna Depalma Reach in 1976. Melanee had her eyes set on breaking this mark after just missing last year. She changed her technique to do so by eliminating her run-up and then increased her weight training. The end result was a heave of 226’9”. Melanee also tied the mark of 6.60 in the 50, set by Detroit’s Andrea Nranian in 1979. Melanee graduated from Clark University in 2013 with an MBA in marketing. There she starred in softball and field hockey, where she holds the school record with 112 career goals.
Both of the 2014 pentathlon champions took silver this year in tight competition. Greater Boston’s Vigen Sarkisov was overtaken on the last event by Mark Hamalian from Providence. Mark scored 2,735 points, which was only 36 more than Vigen. While Vigen dominated the first two throwing events, Mark came back to win the jumping and running events. On the women’s side, 2012 champion Nairi Krafian from Greater Boston totaled 2,212 points, which was 59 points better than Detroit’s Knar Topouzian. The two had met before in 2013 when Knar came out on top. This time around Nairi pulled ahead to stay when she ruled the second event, the long jump.
An amazing total of nine records were broken or tied at this year’s Games. This is the highest total since the remarkable 1979 Olympics when 21 marks were set. In addition to the six set by the high scorers, there were two individuals and a relay team to make history. Sixteen-year-old Ani Armenakyan of Providence started off by breaking the shot put record of 37’4” set by Providence’s Joyce Ajootian in 1981. Ani tied the distance on her first throw and then broke it by 4.5” on her final one. Then, Greater Boston’s Alex Avakian set a new standard of 151’7” in the discus on his last throw. The old record (150’2”) was held by Emmanuel Mkrtchian from Philadelphia and was set 5 years ago. Finally the Greater Boston co-ed 4×200 relay team established a new mark of 1:47.15 in that event. They shattered the old Sebouh record of 1:48.65 run in 2008.
The Ernest Nahigian Award for sportsmanship and fraternal spirit was presented to Raffi Sarajian of Worcester and Megerdich Kassabian from North Andover. North Andover also won the Most Improved Chapter trophy. The Cory Tosoian Trophy for the alumni golf was won by Armen Tenkarian, a former member of the host chapter.
Men’s Track & Field
Stephen Tutunjian continued his streaks in the men’s jumping events taking the long and triple jumps for the ninth straight year and retiring undefeated in those two events. However, the long jump competition was the closest he has ever faced. Steve jumped 21’4.25” but there were two other jumpers less than a foot behind. Mike Melkonian from Worcester leapt 20’8” to narrowly win the silver by 3 inches over rookie Armen Almasian of North Andover. The triple jump was not as close, as Steve broke his own record soaring 49’2”, which is only 2 inches less than his first NCAA Championship qualifying mark at Lehigh University during 2010. His personal best in the event is 50’4.5” which set the Lehigh record in 2012. Varak Ghazarian from San Francisco took second, as he did in 2014, and Mkrtich Arslanyan (Providence) won the bronze. Finally Steve won the high jump at 5’8” with Greater Boston’s Sam Chakmakjian close behind at 5’6” and Varantian Nareg Mkrtschjan at 5’4”.
On the track, the only double winner was Masis Mardirosian from Philadelphia. In his first Olympics, Masis sprinted to victory in the 100 and 200, both by less than 1/10th of a second ahead of Greater Boston’s Shant Mahrokhian. Armen Almasian took 3rd in the 100 while Mike Melkonian won bronze in the 200. Andrew Hintlian secured the 400 for Providence, in front of Philly rookie Eric Papazian and Washington sprinter Haig Pakhchanian. Papazian earlier had won the 800 ahead of veterans Daron Bedian (Chicago) and Gary Dodakian (Providence). Meanwhile Daron came out on top in the grueling 3200-meter run on Sunday morning. Sam Chakmakjian and New York’s Haig Minassian followed behind. Another rookie, David Barsamian from Jersey, won the 1600 with Chicago teammates Alek Surenian and Daron Bedian grabbing silver and bronze. The hurdles were run in the morning and Daniel Chakmakjian brought home the gold for the Nejdehs as he did in 2012. Sebouh Richard Keshgegian and Mkrtich Arslanyan were the other medalists.
The throws were dominated by Greater Boston newcomer Alex Avakian. In the morning, Alex won the discus with his record heave of 151’7” which was over 50 feet ahead of Alexan Topalian from Providence and Armen Nercesian of West San Fernando. Philadelphia’s Mark Santerian then defended his javelin crown with a toss of 157’3”. Alex took the bronze and was edged out by only three inches by Sevan Zobian from the host chapter. But Alex came back to win his second gold in the shot put with a throw of 45’4.5”. Armen, the 2014 champion, when he was with Detroit, took second and Meran Topalian (Providence) won the bronze.
Greater Boston came from behind to win the 4×100 meter relay in 47.14 with Providence close on their heels and Philadelphia just behind them. The Varantians bounced back to take the 4×400 relay in 4:02.51 with New Jersey and Philadelphia following in second and third.
Women’s Track & Field
Three high scorers dominated the women’s track and field events this year and won 9 of the 14 individual events. Rookie Anoush Krafian started things off with her record leap of 17’3.25” in the long jump. She was almost three feet ahead of last year’s winner, Ariana Chipolone from New Jersey. Providence newcomer Jessica Marabian placed third. Anoush continued her assault on the record book by easily winning the 100 hurdles in a time of 15.76. Two time event champ Kenar Charchaflian of Worcester beat Mackenzie Derderian from Providence for second place. Finally Anoush took gold in the high jump by clearing 5’2” and just missed on her third attempt to set a new record there also. Defending champion Ariana settled for second again with Philadelphian Emily Selverian in third. The other jumping event, the triple jump, was won by Ani Comella at 26’5.75” for Providence. She bested teammate Mackenzie Derderian and Jersey’s Theresa Jelalian, who both had the same distance, but Mackenzie took the silver with a better second jump.
The track events saw Tarvis Hintlian repeat her 2014 titles in the three distance events. Tarvis recorded times of 5:55.10 in the 1600, 2:39.63 in the 800, and 1:06.61 in the 400. She finished ahead of teammates in all three of these events. Emily Sarkisian was second in both the 800 and 1600 and still had enough energy to take 3rd in the 400. The bronze medals went Shayna McCarty from New Jersey in the 1600 and to Sevan Dulgarian from Greater Boston in the 800. Rebecca Khimatian won silver for Providence in the 400 after previously winning the 200 in a time of 30.01. Philadelphia’s Jessica Selverian placed second in the 200 with Jersey’s Alycia McCarty in third.
The short sprints were ruled by Melanee Melkonian. The Aram speedster first tied the record of 6.60 in the 50-meter dash. Greater Boston took second and third with Araxi Krafian and her cousin Ani Hackett. Melanee repeated in the 100 with a time of 13.40, besting Ariana Chipolone. In 2014, Ariana beat Melanee in the 200 but both ladies decided against running the event this year. Jessica Selverian won the bronze medal here.
The throwing events were won by four different ladies. Melanee won her third gold with her record setting baseball throw of 226’9”. Providence’s Ani Armenakyan earned the silver and Christine Kutlu won bronze for New Jersey. Ani had earlier set her record of 37’8.5” winning the most impressive shot put competition in AYF history. For the first time, the top four places were all over 30 feet. Defending champion Ani Sarajian (New Jersey) achieved her AYF personal best of 30’10” and had to settle for 4th place. Providence took all the medals with Kaitlin Garabian and Siran Krikorian in second and third. In the discus, Central Executive president Michelle Hagopian, of Greater Boston, won for the 10th straight year with a toss of 99’2”. The 10-year run matches her success in the golf event and ties the streak set by Harry Derderian (Springfield) in tennis during the 1960’s. Kaitlin and Ani won silver and bronze. The javelin medals were all collected by AYF newcomers. Varantian Tatevik Khatchatryan won the event with a 94’9” heave with teammate Sara Anoushian in third and Christine Kutlu in second.
The Greater Boston girls won the 4×100 meter relay in 55.76 while New Jersey overtook Providence for 2nd place. But the Varantians came back to take the 4×200 event with a time of 2:05.30. Philadelphia and New Jersey took second and third, respectively. The final event of the afternoon was the 4×200 co-ed relay where Greater Boston set their new record of 1:47.15 as Providence and Philadelphia finished well behind.