CHICAGO, Ill—The last chapter to retire an Olympics Cup was the Philadelphia AYF in 2008. This year the Sebouhs tried to repeat that feat but ran into a deeply talented Greater Boston team that racked up 177 points to win by 46.5 points. After Friday’s events, the Nejdehs sat in third place with 27 points and trailed first place New Jersey by 14. But they piled up 41 points in the Sunday morning events to seize a 24 point lead and never looked back. When the dust cleared, Boston had taken 18 gold medals—more than half of the 34 Sunday events. The Nejdehs were led by high scorers Anoush Krafian and Shant Mahrokhian, as well as rookie pentathlon victor Lori Ganjian. Along the way, Alexis Cormier scored 13 points in the distance events while thrower Alex Avakian and rookie Knar Krafian chipped in 11 each.
Philadelphia’s total of 130.5 points was somewhat short of the 158 they put up last year. But they once again featured a balanced medal total of seven golds, 10 silvers and eight bronzes along with winning three relays. The Keshgegian brothers once again led the way as Aram won the pentathlon, Anto scored 13 and Avi won the hurdles for the third straight time. They were helped by Mark Santerian’s 10 points as well as Mher Mardirosian and first time swimmer Kevork Zeibari, who each had 11. Detroit had their best finish since they won in 2014 as they placed third with 74 points. Team K-T had high scorer Melanie Sarafian dominate the sprints and break a 40 year-old record in the 50 meter dash. Close behind with 65 points was New Jersey who had high scorer Aram Barmakian win three golds in the pool. The Arsens started strong on Friday as they won the golf, tennis and swimming competitions. The only other team with a high scorer was fifth place Providence (38 points) who had Lily Kernaghan win three swimming golds as she did last year.
Host chapter Chicago was sixth once again with 33 points as Ally Devedjian rang up 13 points in the pool. North Andover took seventh place scoring 25 points, one more than Most Improved Chapter Middlesex West. In ninth place with 22 points was Glendale, one of four West Coast chapters that scored. Just behind was Orange County (10 points), also from California. Washington, DC had eight points for 11th place while Racine scored six. North Valley (West Coast) had five points and next year’s host Worcester was 14th with three points. Manhattan and West San Fernando rounded out the scoring with two and 1.5 points respectively.
The first triple gold winner of the weekend was once again swimmer Lily Kernaghan from Providence. She won the 50 and 100 freestyles as well as the 50 backstroke, all in near record time. Kernaghan swims for the Westport Water Rats Club and has personal bests of 24.12 and 52.37 in the 50 and 100 free, as well as 26.55 and 56.46 in the 50 and 100 back. Her 50 back time was recorded at YMCA Nationals where she placed 22nd earlier this year. She is receiving recruiting letters from colleges and will be weighing her options this year as a senior. Her mother Maya is a Varantian alum and reports that her daughter started going to Camp Haiastan when she was eight years old. At camp, she used to wake up at 5:30 to practice on her own in the pool. She is thankful to the lifeguards who used to wake up with her just for safety protocol. Maya also mentioned that a prior swim club coach pressured Lily to skip camp so that she could continue practicing with the team during the summer. Lily chose to change teams!
New Jersey’s Aram Barmakian also won three swimming events as a 23 year-old rookie. He started with the 50 breast and then won the 100 free and 50 fly. Barmakian used to swim for Westfield High School in New Jersey and for the Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA. He had personal records of 58.10 in the 100 breast and 2:08.09 in the 200 breast at the 2014 YMCA Nationals. Barmakian placed 30th and 41st in those events. He also took 13th place at the NJ State HS Championships in the 100 breast during his senior year. Barmakian went on to swim and play water polo for Boston College, where he also served as President of the Armenian Club. He is currently a researcher in Saddle Brook, NJ, at CBRE.
Anoush Krafian continued her undefeated streak as she was high scorer for the fifth straight year. This year she showed her versatility by winning the shot put and high jump as well as breaking her own record in the long jump. Krafian graduated from Belmont High School last year where she set 12 school records and had five All State Championships. During her final indoor All State Meet, she won both the pentathlon and 55 hurdles and also placed second in the high jump. At the outdoor All State Meet, she won the 100 hurdles with a personal best of 14.26 and placed second in the pentathlon. Two weeks later, she flew to North Carolina A&T University for the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. Krafian earned All-American honors for the third time by placing fifth in the heptathlon with a score of 4721 points, setting personal bests in the high jump (5’6.25”) and the 200 (25.56). Krafian just completed her freshman year at Dartmouth College where she was also a member of the track team. She placed fourth in the pentathlon at the indoor Ivy League Championships in February.
Krafian’s teammate Shant Mahrokhian recovered from last year’s leg injury to become high scorer as he did in 2017. Mahrokhian won the 100 and 200 meter dashes as well as the long jump. Mahrokhian graduated from Tufts last year with a degree in Biology. He was co-captain and Middlesex League All-Star for the soccer team at Lexington High School but never was a member of their track team. At Tufts, Mahrokhian decided to join the track team after his successes at AYF Olympics. He recorded several long jumps over 21 feet and did well in the sprints. Mahrokhian is currently doing medical research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Detroit’s Melanie Sarafian won triple gold for her first time in her third Olympics. Sarafian swept the 50, 100 and 200 meter dashes in easy fashion, setting a record in the 50. Last year she won the 100 but came up short in the other two events. Melanie just graduated from Northville High School where she had been a soccer player before switching to track in her junior year. After committing to sprinting full time, she improved to the point where she qualified for the State Division 1 Championships in the 100. During the off season, Sarafian continued to train with a local track club. This past season at the Michigan HS Region 6 Championship, she won the 100 and took second in the 200 with personal bests of 12.36 and 26.31. Melanie went on to place ninth in the 100 at the State Championships and helped her 4×100 relay team place fifth with a school record time. She is now a freshman at University of Michigan studying neuroscience and plans to run with their club team.
The pentathlon trophies went to 16 year-old Lori Ganjian from Greater Boston and 23 year-old Aram Keshgegian of Philadelphia. Ganjian won the jumps and the sprint to score 1840 and edge defending champion Jessica Sarkisian of Philadelphia by 54 points. Keshgegian took the running events and the shot put to put up 2334 points and win his second pent title by over 700 points.
Aside from the records set by Sarafian and Krafian, two relay teams set new marks. Greater Boston broke their own chapter record in the coed running relay with a time of 1:45.27. The team combined high scorers Krafian and Mahrokhian with Ganjian and Kebabjian. On Friday, Detroit swam the coed relay in a record time of 1:58.10. Their team was made up of two sisters and two brothers—Knar and Teny Topouzian with Armen and Berj Vartanian. Last but not least, the Ernest Nahigian Award for sportsmanship and fraternal spirit was presented to Daron Hamparian from Greater Boston.
MEN’S TRACK & FIELD
The men’s events once again showed much depth with only three double winners. First was high scorer Shant Mahrokhian from Greater Boston, who won both the 100 and 200 meter dashes. Mahrokhian had good margins of victory in both races with times of 11.41 and 23.82. Armen Almasian from North Andover took silver in the 100, while Boston’s Vasken Kebabjian did so in the 200. Philly’s Eric Papazian settled for bronze by a margin of only 0.01 seconds in both cases. Papazian was also edged out in the 400 as he finished right behind teammate Mher Mardirosian who had a time of 57.65. Greater Boston’s Greg Cormier placed third. Earlier that day, Mardirosian and Cormier had placed 2-3 in the 800 meter run where Anto Keshgegian won in 2:19.87. That was Keshgegian’s second gold after winning the 3200 meter run during the morning session in 12:49.17. Boston’s Sam Chakmakjian and Raffi Sarrafian from Chicago won the other medals in that event. In what may be a first, none of these three runners took medals in the other long distance event—the 1600. Hampton Trout from Greater Boston won that contest with a time of 5:40.00, ahead of David Bournazian (Washington) and Haig Kadian (Detroit). The only other track event, the 110 meter hurdles, saw Avi Keshgegian three-peat as he out-leaned teammate Garno Khararjian in 18.05. Nejdeh Andre Kotikian took the bronze.
In the field events, Boston’s Alex Avakian was the only two-time victor, as he was last year. Avakian first took the shot put with a toss of 47’6.25” to beat Providence’s Zach Semerjian and Detroit’s Michael Nercesian by about seven feet. Avakian then won the discus with a heave of 149’1”, less than 3’ shy of his record in the event. Nercesian won the silver and Philly’s Mark Santerian took third. The other throwing event, the javelin, was actually contested on Saturday due to restrictions on that event at Triton College. In that battle, Zach Semerjian upset five-time champion Mark Santerian with a toss of 149’7” while Nercesian won the bronze. In the long jump, Shant Mahrokhian started his day by beating defending champ Armen Almasian and Masis Mardirosian from Philly. Mahrokhian and Almasian both recorded leaps of 20’7”, but Shant won the gold with a longer second best jump. In the high jump, Sam Chakmakjian turned the tables on Keshgegian clearing a height of 5’6” and won the event for the third time. Keshgegian’s teammate Paze Yeremian placed third. Armand Keosian from North Valley, California defended his triple jump title. Keosian and Philadelphia’s Mardirosian both jumped 37’, but the medal was once again awarded based on the second best distances. Boston’s Kotikian was only 2” behind them.
Philadelphia and Greater Boston swapped first and second places in the two relays. The Nejdehs won the 4 x 100 meter race in 46.39, while the Sebouhs took the 4 x 400 in 4:21.75. Providence took third place in the sprint relay, while New Jersey did so in the 4 x 400.
WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD
High scorer Anoush Krafian dominated the women’s field events and stayed undefeated in her five years of Olympics competition. Anoush started her day by winning the shot put for her first time with a toss of 34’2”, over 5’ further than Araz Madenlian from Orange County, California. Lauren Billeh won the bronze for the host Ararat chapter. Krafian then broke her own record in the long jump with a leap of 17’5.5”. Defending champ Meline Almasian from North Andover settled for second and was less than 1” ahead of Madenlian. Anoush completed her individual events by winning the high jump for the 5th straight year by clearing 5’. Knar Topouzian from Detroit and Grace Ezgilioglu from New Jersey finished second and third as they did last year. Madenlian completed her diverse medal collection by winning gold in the triple jump at 32’3.5”. Jacqueline Fales (NJ) and Ani Dardarian (PHIL) were over 4’ behind that distance. Gasia Oknayan from Detroit threw the discus 71’4” to win that event over Boston’s Taline Guzelian and defending champion Haigan Tcholakian, also from Detroit. Rookie Tsoline Gevorkian won the only individual gold for her Middlesex West chapter in the baseball throw. Tsoline threw 178’9” to beat last year’s winner Sena Changelian of Boston and Rebecca Selverian from Philly. Changelian came back to win the javelin throwing 86’2” which was almost 24’ better than her toss last year. Knar, the youngest Krafian, took second over Sevan Dulgarian from Middlesex.
The story on the track was Melanie Sarafian in the sprints. Sarafian started her day by breaking Andrea Nranian’s 40 year-old record in the 50 meter dash. She was clocked in 6.41 to turn the tables on Almasian, who had beaten her the past two years. Almasian’s teammate Meline Markarian was third. The same pair went 1-2 again in the 100 meters where Sarafian recorded a time of 12.52. Chicago’s Mariana Alexanian took the bronze. Melanie took the 200 in 26.45 which was well ahead of Knar Krafian and Alexanian in third once again. The distance events were dominated by Boston’s Alexis Cormier. She took the 1600 in 6:31.0 over Tsoline Gevorkian and Jersey’s Shayna McCarthy. Cormier then won the 800 with a time of 2:54.0 with Aren Dardarian and Sevan Dulgarian trailing behind. Alexis’ triple gold effort was then broken up by Knar Topouzian in the 400. Knar won the event for the third year in a row in 1:07.35 while Aren Dardarian took third. The first track event of the afternoon was actually the hurdles where Knar Krafian and Anahis Kechejian went 1-2 for Greater Boston. Knar’s time was 16.57, about two seconds behind her sister’s record.
The women’s relays were battles between Greater Boston and Detroit. In both events, the Nejdeh team was made up of the four Krafian sisters—Anoush, Knar, Nairi and Araxi. In the 4 x 100, this quartet brought the baton around in 54.90, well ahead of Team K-T and North Andover. According to this writer’s information, it marked the first time in AYF history that a winning relay was made up of four siblings. New Jersey’s Sarajian brothers ran a relay in 2012 but placed fourth. However, in the 4 x 200 meter race, Detroit built up a 10 meter lead over the first three legs and Melanie Sarafian was able to hold off a hard charging Anoush Krafian. The winning time was 2:01.31 with Philadelphia well behind those two. The final event of the day was the 4 x 200 coed relay; Greater Boston broke their own chapter record with a time of 1:45.27, while Detroit and Philly took the other places.