It took me several years to realize this, but Friday is the busiest day at the AYF Olympics. Tennis and Golf take place during the day; swimming events are held early in the evening; the day is capped off with the Alumni Dance; and after all that—for those who still have the energy—there is a hook-up.
When the day dawned, it looked like it might be a washout for the golf and tennis competitions. It was raining and the forecast did not look favorable. In fact, the forecast for the entire weekend had not been looking very good for the past week. Tennis seemed to have the most to lose from this precarious weather situation.The rain made the courts all wet and the players were forced to spend an hour squeegeeing the courts before they could even warm-up. But, thankfully, they were able to play. The women completed all of their matches with the New Jersey continuing their dominance for a third year in a row
- Ana Bandazian – New Jersey
- Lina Ariyan – New Jersey
- Katia Ariyan – New Jersey
- Kenar Charchaflian – Worcester
On the men’s side, third place went to Nareg Mkrtschian of Providence; Kyle Dinkjian of New Jersey was fourth. First and second place will be determined on Saturday at the tennis courts at the same park where the softball games will be played.
Golf was taking place in New Jersey (where somehow—as soon as we crossed the bridge, the rain stopped). I am not sure if anyone has more fun competing at the AYF Olympics than the golfers do. While golf is a game of skill, stamina, and focus, it is also a very social game, and the only event in which alumni are invited to participate, as well. It is also the only event in the AYF Olympics where, at the end of the competition, a lunch is served alongside the medals. Alumnus, Christine Shirinian summed it up best in a glorious double-negative, “I am never not playing golf at the AYF Olympics again!”
For the last four years, Philadelphia cousins Peter Tashjian and Mark Santerian, cousins, have dominated golf, on the men’s side. Both of them dominated again this year. Mark Santerian won the AYF event, while Peter—who had aged out—played and also won his first alumni golf tournament. On the active AYF side, Alex Kassabian of New York took second, Mike Haase of Detroit came in third, and Shahen Hagen of North Andover placed fourth. The results on the women’s side were:
- Shayna McCarthy – New Jersey
- Theresa Jelalian – New Jersey
- Ani Comella – Providence
- Karnee Berejiklian – Greater Boston
The swimming events took place at the Drexel University DAC facilities. The pool and the stands were excellent. It also was very well ventilate, as we were spared the heat and humidity that have been hallmarks of the swimming competition in past years.
This year in Philadelphia there are 228 athletes registered to compete in individual events. Albeit without fact-checking, that sounds like a record for this century, and perhaps the nineties, as well. As a result, every swimming event had to have preliminary races. This, combined with the fact that the PA system gave out early on in the evening, made it almost impossible to announce upcoming events and thus, the competition went on much longer than usual.
Regardless, there were some stellar performances. Newcomer Lilly Kernaghan of Providence broke three records in the 50-yard freestyle (which she broke in a preliminary race!), the 50-yard backstroke, and the 100-yard freestyle. Andrew Devedjian of Chicago also won three events on the men’s side of the competition.
The alumni dance which followed the events capped off the day. The food was as fabulous as ever, and more plentiful than at any recent alumni night, thanks to the committee led by Dori Keshgegian and Debbie Tashjian. The Michael Gostanian Band had everyone on the dance floor. The highlight of the evening was when the Olympic kings were named, Rich Keshgegian and Mike Shamlian, as well as the recipients of the Varadian Spirit Award, Andrew Kzirian and Glenn Papazian. All four gentlemen have been and still are integral members of the AYF and St. Gregory community here in Philadelphia, and are well-deserving of the recognition they received. Given the applause and enthusiasm of those in attendance, the entire community agreed.
Taking place today are the softball competition and Harout Pamboukjian concert—updates soon to come!
All photos courtesy of Mark Gavoor, Sona Gevorkian, and Tamar Kanarian.