2018 AYF Olympics: Coaches’ Comments

Illustration by Masha Keryan for the Armenian Weekly

Philadelphia, First Place

Former Philadelphia track star and past Governing Body member, Dave Papazian, started coaching the Sebouhs several ago. He gave his thoughts on repeating as champions this year but chose not to comment on possibly retiring the Cup next year in Chicago:

“Defending the Cup at home was not as easy as some would think, and I knew this going into the summer. The games being located in the middle of the East Coast meant that other Chapters were coming loaded. I told the team we needed to do more than show up, we needed to be really good. They were really good. The kids rose up again as a total team, filling relays from deep on the roster and earning golds, silvers & bronzes equally to take us over the top at home.

“Friday night, my feelings were complicated. We didn’t quite match our expected point total but after it was over I felt good. We had more swimmers than usual, partly because multiple team members had to compete on Friday instead of Sunday for various reasons. As an example, our top triple jumper and solid distance man Alec Arakelian broke his foot this spring but still earned a silver in the backstroke as a replacement event. Michael Ballard returned this year with silvers in the 50 & 100 free. But what makes this team tick are relays. We were able to get two golds and two silvers in the four swim relays and we did that with golfers (yes plural), pentathletes, shot putters, sprinters and jumpers.

The games being located in the middle of the East Coast meant that other Chapters were coming loaded. I told the team we needed to do more than show up, we needed to be really good. They were really good.

“On Sunday I really felt confident the team was ready. Lindsey Santerian broke her own triple jump record that morning and added a javelin gold and long jump silver before noon. Her brother Mark matched that javelin gold and had already won gold in golf on Friday. At the start of the afternoon, Avi Keshgegian repeated gold in the hurdles. Tavit Frounjian works hard with Avi Keshgegian every summer on hurdles and was going to take his first silver medal, but fell after hitting late hurdles. I felt really bad for him, but he is a great kid and kept things in perspective with a smile. While I try to be conservative about scoring, I remember thinking this was not going to matter, and mostly just felt bad for Tavit after working so hard. We immediately followed that with golds in the Men’s & Women’s 4×100 relays, confirming the positive vibes.

“One strength of our team is the male sprinters, and they always draw great competition from other chapters as well. Eric Papazian led the crew this year by winning his first 200 meter race and also getting silver in the 100 and bronze in the 400. His teammate and previous gold medalist Masis Mardirosyan pushed him all summer and expects to return to the gold medal stand himself next year. Masis’s brother Mher repeated his 400 victory from last year and is only seventeen. On the longer runs, Chapter President Anto Keshgegian continued his now clock-like results in the distances, with a gold, silver & silver.

“Our pentathletes, Aram Keshgegian, and his cousins Jessica & Kelsey Sarkisian were totally engaged in their events all day long, bringing us gold, silver & silver for 33 points. But again, it was teamwork more than individual stardom; Jess [Sarkisian] stayed back to cajole sister Kelsey around that second lap of the 800, ensuring a Sisterly Love gold & silver. Jessica will be one of our few losses for 2019 and it will be a huge void. I am really proud of what she has accomplished for us. She is never too tired to be a part of every relay despite entering the most grueling individual event offered.

“For the late day relays, we overcame injury replacements and a dropped baton to do what we do best, score in relays. Acting for a moment as “dad/coach”, I told my son Eric that I wanted him to be the last runner to break the tape at the 2018 Philly Olympics for the Mixed 4×200. He overcame exhaustion to do just that, making me jump about as high as I have in 20 years. I am really proud to be part of this Philly Sebouh Olympic Team, they truly deserved this victory.”

 

Greater Boston, Second Place

Second place Greater Boston was coached and guided by chapter veteran members this year headed by Araxi Krafian, Eric Movsesian and Alex Avakian. Araxi shared her feelings about the team:

It was Boston’s year for the lesser known athletes to leave Philly having made a big impression and a meaningful impact on these games. There is little doubt that the long term benefit from this type of total team effort will surely lead to great outcomes from the group. Expect big things from Boston over the next several years.

“This year’s Boston Olympic team was constructed differently than our recent successful teams. They rallied around a mission to draw out big participation numbers through the efforts of their three team Captains – Araxi Krafian, Alex Avakian and Eric Movsesian. We had practice, but attendance was light. Between internships, travel, college sports, not to mention that ten of our athletes were Camp Haiastan counselors this summer, and reliable team leaders Shant Mahrokhian and Daniel Chakmakjian (both injured) and Nairi Krafian (in Armenia) not participating…you could say that our practices didn’t engender confidence. On the other hand, members signed up to participate, and as importantly, showed up for their events without exception.

“What we lost in reliable point scoring performances, we made up for with numbers: Boston managed to field competitors in all but 5 events; we scored in every available relay; we had six junior transfers compete; and superb team spirit for every one of our athletes regardless of event or result. Taking nothing away for standout performances by Daron Hamparian, Anoush Arakelian, Eric Movsesian, Anoush Krafian, Alex Avakian….It was Boston’s year for the lesser known athletes to leave Philly having made a big impression and a meaningful impact on these games. There is little doubt that the long term benefit from this type of total team effort will surely lead to great outcomes from the group. Expect big things from Boston over the next several years.”

 

New Jersey, Third Place

The New Jersey Arsens finished in third place this year and they were helped by former Central Executive member, Ara Sarajian, who shared his thoughts on their efforts:

“The 2018 New Jersey Arsen Olympic team was one that experienced a great deal of transformation. Welcoming 12 new members to the team, we knew that, going into these games, we’d have a very young group and would be counting on every member to do their part throughout the weekend.

“Recently, the team’s recipe for success has included a strong performance at the tennis courts. On the Women’s side, Katia and Lina Ariyan and Ana Bandazian ensured our sweep of the medals. On the Men’s side Matt Tarzian and Kyle Dinkjian were able to finish 2nd and 4th. Additionally Theresa Jelalian and Shayna McCarthy (this year’s Ernest Nahigian Sportsmanship Award recipient) finished first and second in golf. After all of Friday events concluded, we found ourselves in fifth place but knew that we were within striking distance of another top 3 finish.

While the [New Jersey] team jokes that our unofficial motto is ‘Third Place Is So Us’ you can see that many of our members are starting to work toward the goal of bringing New Jersey their first Olympic title. The team is very excited for Chicago and we look forward to seeing you all there.

“After a spirited performance in the Softball tournament. The team met and agreed that our expectation was to place and everyone would show up on Sunday to put up a fight in hopes of another chapter dance.

“The team arrived early on Sunday and got straight to work. Staying focused and hydrated throughout a long and hot day was challenging. A ton of credit goes to our more senior members to keep everyone at the track and ensure that no one left early. As points started to get tallied, we saw that it would be very close between us and Detroit for third. With a fully loaded relay team and Arev Dinkjian and Paul Chamesian in the pentathlon, we were able to finish the day strong and pick a total of 72 points – ensuring third place and New Jersey’s fourth time placing top three in five years.

“The team was proud of their accomplishment this year and excited to get an infusion of youth. As usual, all Arsen members were on the dance floor and loudly celebrating the weekend’s success. While the team jokes that our unofficial motto is ‘Third Place Is So Us’ you can see that many of our members are starting to work toward the goal of bringing New Jersey their first Olympic title. The team is very excited for Chicago and we look forward to seeing you all there.”

Bob Tutunjian

Bob Tutunjian

Bob Tutunjian is President of Vivaproducts, a medical device company in Massachusetts. He has been actively involved with the AYF and the Olympics since 1967 and has written many articles covering this event.
Bob Tutunjian

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