By Lia Aftandilian
Recording Secretary, AYF Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter
ARLINGTON, Va.—This past Presidents’ Day weekend, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Washington DC “Ani” Chapter hosted the annual National Athletic Tournament, otherwise known as NATs. The event attracted over 200 attendees from chapters across the eastern region as well as the west coast to compete and participate in basketball and co-ed volleyball tournaments. Games were held during the day in double-elimination tournament format followed by dances each evening for the attendees, including a Saturday night dance featuring Kevork Artinian.
Preliminary basketball games were played on Saturday to decide which teams would face off in the final games on Sunday. Men’s basketball was exciting to the end, with the final game between West Coast and Philadelphia “Sebouh“ Chapter going into overtime. It looked like the game was headed to double overtime when the score was tied once again after Aram Keshgegian of Philadelphia was fouled with less than two seconds to go. He made the first of his free throw shots, sealing the victory for his chapter.
The games are the primary focus of the weekend, but there is much more to the weekend than basketball and volleyball. “[Our games] went pretty bad,” said Chris Tarzian of the New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter, “but overall, it was fun. I love being around Armenians,” he continued, speaking to the importance of the weekend for the Armenian community. Though every chapter comes in hopes of winning, the experience off the court is just as special. “It’s nice to have another event besides [Senior Olympics] to see all of our friends,” said Patil Tcholakian, a member of the Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” Chapter.
The amount of work it takes to plan and execute this annual event cannot go unmentioned. This year’s host chapter—DC “Ani”—worked diligently to make sure that the weekend event went off without a hitch. “I’ve been a member for 14 years now, and this is one of my favorite events,” said Mari Tikoyan of the DC “Ani” Chapter. “Being able to plan…makes you [appreciate it] more.”
This year’s top-performing athletes went to Aram Keshgegian of the Philadelphia “Sebouh” Chapter and Theresa Jelalian of the New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter, both of whom were named MVPs for their efforts in sealing their teams’ victories in the men’s and women’s basketball final. Along with New Jersey and Philadelphia, the “Mixed” team, made up of AYF members from various regions, left victorious capturing the win in the co-ed volleyball final.
Though every team came with the hopes of playing in the final, there were no hard feelings once the games concluded. “Regardless [of the outcome], at the end of the day we are all ungers,” said Ani Tikoyan of the DC “Ani” Chapter, capturing the essence of the weekend. The chapters who did not leave victorious need not worry; they will have another chance at victory with AYF Senior Olympics later this summer.