Friday at the Chicago AYF Olympics

AYF Central Executive

It was an awesome Friday at the AYF Olympics jam-packed with athletic and social events. The day began with golf, tennis and basketball, which all began at 9 in the morning. Swimming began in the early evening. The evening was capped off with two dances: the Alumni Dance and the AYF Gala with Tigran Asatryan.

Planning and coordinating all of these activities, which includes shuttling athletes and spectators alike to the various venues, is no mean task. The Chicago organizing committee has done a wonderful job thus far. One thing they have done that no one else has done in my memory was to have the golf, tennis and basketball within three miles of each other in Mt. Prospect, IL. People could easily go between the venues with ease. It was very cool. Mother Nature did her part and provided a simply gorgeous sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70s. It was a great first day for AYF Olympic sports!

A fleet of yerakouyn golf carts

I first hit the beautiful Old Orchard Country Club to watch the AYF and Alumni Golfers tee off. There were five men golfers including Mark Santerian (Philadelphia)—last year’s winner and clearly the man to beat this year. The rest of the competitors were the Providence brothers Shahan and Alexan Topalian, Joey Charchaflian of Greater Boston and Sam Manuelian of Worcester. There was a mix-up in registration for Norig Boyan (Greater Boston), so he couldn’t officially compete for a medal. But in great fraternal spirit, he was out there playing and supporting the others. Not surprisingly, Mark Santerian shot a blazing 72 and won the gold.

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There were four women golfers who have played together for the past few years. Everyone was guaranteed to get a point. They included Shayna McCarthy and Theresa Jelalian from New Jersey, Ani Comela of Providence and Araxi Krafian from Boston. The results were not available at the time of this reporting, but Shayna McCarthy was looking very strong.

There was a large number of alumni golfers as usual but no women alumni this year. Mike Manoogian won the trophy which was presented at the Alumni Dance.

The next stop was the tennis courts. There were five women participating Chanetelle Nasri (Manhattan), Anahis Kechejian (Greater Boston), Olivia Barberian (North Andover) and Katia and Lina Ariyan (New Jersey).  Kenar Charchaflian (Worcester), who usually plays, was there supporting and cheering on her tennis friends but will be doing the Pentathlon this year. AYF tennis stalwarts Lina and Katia squared off in the finals with Katia besting her sister. Olivia took the bronze, and Anahis came in fourth.

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There were 17 men registered to play tennis. Fourteen showed up and competed including Hagop Taraksian (Providence), a crowd favorite, who was looking to win his fifth AYF tennis title. He ended up in an exciting finals match against Shahan Derbedrosian of Glendale. The games were excellent with long rallies. In the end, Shahan bested Hagop in two sets and took the gold. Michael Armen Kadian (Detroit) took third, and Garo Tashian (Providence) took fourth. It was a great day for AYF tennis.

This year, a new sport was introduced:  three-on-three basketball. There were six teams, three of which were from California. This format of basketball is half court, fast paced and fun to watch. One point is awarded for a normal basket, and two are given for a basket from beyond the three-point line. There is no time clock and no free throws. The first team to 15 wins, and you have to win by two. I was able to catch the semi-finals and final games, and it was truly exciting. New Jersey squared off against a Los Angeles team. It was a hard-fought game with Los Angeles finally prevailing in the equivalent of three on three triple overtime. You can watch a video of the last half of that game on Facebook.

Los Angeles basketball team

This reporter was unable to attend the swimming competition. Look for a report on the swimming in tomorrow’s article.

The Alumni Dance Buffet (Photo: Zaven Tcholakian)

The Alumni Dance was next on the agenda. The tradition is to have the local community provide a lavish display of Armenian delicacies. The Chicago ladies did just that. The offerings were varied and amazing. The Hye Vibes with guest stars Ara Dinkjian and Ara Topouzian provided the music. The meal delayed the start of the dancing, but once the Khaligians from Racine got up to dance, the dance floor was full and stayed that way for the remainder of the evening. It was old school AYF Armenian music and dance and, as they say, the joint was rocking. It was estimated that 400 were in attendance, and everyone had a fabulous time.

One of the traditions is to name the Olympic Kings, Queens and the Varadian Spirit Award winners at the Alumni Dance. The choices this year were:

  • Kings: Raffi Killian and Jeff Hagopian
  • Queen: Karine Birazian Shnorhokian
  • Varadian Spirit Award Winners: Mayreni Soulakian and Greg Bedian

Talk about rocking the joint, that is exactly what Tigran Asatryan did at the AYF Gala. The dance floor was full and appreciative of Tigran’s vocal stylings. Between the Gala and the Alumni Dance, both styles of Armenian party music were provided and enjoyed by one and all.

Tigran Asatryan

There was one quote during the day that sticks out. At the tennis court, Rubina Boyrazian, the athletic trainer in charge of first aid for the event, said, “There are three letters key to finding an Armenian spouse:  A-Y-F.” Well said, Rubina!

Mark Gavoor
Mark Gavoor is Associate Professor of Operations Management in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. He is an avid blogger and oud player.
Mark Gavoor

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  1. Your articles, descriptions & photos are just too wonderful Mark! Makes me feel like I’m right there with all you guys!
    Dorothy Ajdaharian-Arakelian, Phila.

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