By U. Haigan Tcholakian and U. Taline Bedirian
Detroit. Granite City. Racine. Chicago. These four chapters comprise the Mid-West Region of the Armenian Youth Federation, Eastern Region. Every July, this small but dedicated region gathers together to compete in “Junior” Olympics. This year, 94 athletes came together in Detroit to display athleticism, sportsmanship, and love for their organization.
The Midwesterners kicked off the weekend at the Friday Night Picnic, held at Rotary Park in Livonia. Travelers arrived, kids played, and everyone ate, all while preparing for the big day ahead.
At 8:30 Saturday morning, athletes and their families began to trickle onto Franklin High School’s track. Though competitive, all chapters supported one another. The races were exciting and close. Prayers and good wishes were given by Der Hrant Kevorkian, pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, ARF Azadamard Gomideh Chair, U. Raffi Ourlian, CE representative, U. Araxie Tossounian, Detroit KT Junior Advisor, U. Haigan Tcholakian, and AYF alumnus Al Sarafian who honored the legacy of Coach Aram “Sonny” Gavoor. Before awarding medals, all four chapters stood hand in hand, and danced the haleh. If anyone is curious as to what the Mid-West is “all about,” we invite you to join us at Junior Olympics 2019 and see for yourself.
Later that evening, the St. Sarkis Lillian Arakelian hall rapidly filled with AYF members, alumni, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Love was felt throughout the hall. Past generations were hugging and catching up, while the youth were creating life-long friends and memories. Together, they danced to Detroit’s very own Nigosian Band and DJ M-Kay. Congratulations to the fourth-place Granite City “Antranig” chapter, third place Racine “Armen Garo” chapter, second place Chicago “Ararat” chapter, and the host chapter, Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian,” for taking home the gold. High scorers were Detroit’s Alexandra Ayiar and Mano Karjian, Chicago’s Saro Garabet, Racine’s Alec Mahdasian, and Granite City’s Anne Cloherty. The night could not have gone any better. When asked their favorite part of the weekend, the overwhelming response of juniors was “dancing our chapter dances.” Another congratulations to all athletes – to the high scorers and track stars, to the first-time competitors, and to those who overcame their fears and did not quit.
Thank you to all juniors, families, volunteers, and coaches for making this a successful and memorable weekend.