Saturday at the 2021 AYF Olympics

Of the three full days at the AYF Olympics, Saturday is the most “chill” day. In recent years, it has been the day for softball in the AYF format. The teams are co-ed. They play three-pitch softball. You pitch to your own team and each batter only gets three pitches. So, the games are short and exciting. The excitement comes from great plays, great hits and heartbreaking errors. It is the only team-based competition of the Olympic Weekend. And… there are no points. The teams play for fun, spirit and pride. They play for the fraternalism that is the AYF. It is a friendly competition. But it is a competition. Everyone still wants to win.  

Siran Krikorian about to connect

Watching softball is a great time for people to catch-up with each other and socialize. Besides the games themselves, most cities, including Providence this year, pair the event with an old-fashioned Armenian picnic complete with food and traditional live music. It is the excitement of chapter competition loved by the players and fans, who are basically family and friends. Softball at the AYF Olympics has become a grand and wonderful day at the AYF Olympics. Today was no different, there was a large crowd and weather was, while a tad on the warm side, perfect for playing and watching softball.  

The Boston dugout

Detroit ultimately edged out Boston in the final match-up to take the honors of winning the tournament. The Detroit team has been playing in a local league to prepare for AYF Softball. Weekly sports correspondent Andre Khatchaturian will author a more detailed article with more action shots by our team of photographers in the Armenian Weekly’s AYF Olympic Special Issue that will be published in a few short weeks.

2021 Detroit softball team

The music at the picnic was quite good. The band was made up of four young musicians:

Datev Gevorkian – Oud
Michael Kamalian – Clarinet
Alec Surenian – Percussion
Sam Sjostedt – Guitar 

If ever there were a worry about the kind of traditional music that has been the soundtrack of the AYF Olympics surviving and thriving, worry not. These musicians are very talented, enthusiastic and have a very tight sound. Our music is in good hands as the torch gets passed to them. Gevorgian is a student of Mal Barsamian. Kamalian is multi-talented and plays oud, dumbeg and keyboard as well as the clarinet. Surenian is a very strong drummer. Lastly, Sjostedt is a student at Berklee and also plays several instruments. We can all look forward to more music from these fellows in the coming years. While the AYF did not live stream their performance, Michael’s sister posted a Facebook Live video that will give you a feel for the superlatives I am using about this group.

While the chapters were enjoying the day playing softball, another group of AYFers were engaged in a basketball tournament. This is the second year of basketball at the AYF Olympics.  Much like the softball, the AYF runs the basketball in a unique format that is growing in popularity. There are four person teams. They play three on three. The games are shorter. Clock runs for 20 minutes; first team to 21 points wins. A whole tournament can be played in one afternoon.  This year there was also a women’s bracket.  

Leeza Arakelian captured these quotes and observations from today’s basketball tournament inside the gymnasium of East Greenwich High School.

Michael Boyajian (right) on defense in Chicago’s game against Manhattan

Upon losing to Manhattan by 1 in early round game, Michael Boyajian of Chicago credited an unexpected prayer of a three-pointer to ‘the will of the Lord’…”You make the shot! That’s all I gotta say,” he exclaimed. “I think New York came in there expecting it to be an easy game. They’re all bigger than us, stronger than us but we gave them the work. So, I’m very proud of us. Proud of the close game.” The team of Michael Boyajian, Aren Baklian, and Alek Baklian were playing at the Olympics for the very first time.

Sevag Hagopian (left) on defense

Sevag Hagopian of Manhattan commented, “Just played a 3-3 basketball game with my brother and a couple of friends. We just won by one point. It was an exciting game. I’m having a great time here. I did my best. Tried to be a team player. I did what I could do out there. Just put it all out there and do what we can to try and get a couple wins.”

Armen Almasian (N. Andover) in a winning game against Philly led by Anto Keshgegian (#12)

As is the case for softball, the full results for basketball are not available at this time. But we do know that North Andover (led by coach Greg Minasian) did win the men’s bracket in their finals against the west coast. Again, look for a more detailed basketball article by Leeza Arakelian in the Weekly’s Olympics Special Issue. 

Here is some additional information from the Friday athletic events. Nancy Nahigian Tavitian was named an Olympic Queen last evening. Sadly, she was not present nor will she be all weekend as her mother in-law has passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family. Asdvadz hokin lusavoreh.

We had an error in the report of the women’s golf results in yesterday’s article. Sara Gomez of Providence placed fourth, not Boston’s Nairi Krafian as reported. Krafian, however, is still gold in terms of having the best attitude and brimming with the AYF spirit in my view. Also, the incredible two or three under par 69 Alex Kassabian shot is a new Olympic record! At the pool, there were two high scorers from the swim meet, each with 15 points: Natalia Oganesian from Providence and Nareg Minassian from Greater Boston. The only record that was set was in the co-ed 200 freestyle relay by Greater Boston. 

Our statistical guru Bob Tutunjian reported that “Natalia Oganesian of Providence swam 13.45 in the 25 free which was only 0.26 off Lynne Tutunjian’s record.” He went on to say, “Nareg Minasian from Boston swam 23.94 in the 50 free which was 0.4 off Raffi Karapetian’s record.”  Being that close to any record of Karapetian’s is impressive. We should look for more from Minasian as he is a freshman on the Yale University swim team!

Almost on queue when I was about to make a few comments on the Saturday Night Dance featuring Elie Berberian, an announcement popped up that the dance was on Facebook Live.  Elie is a great singer, and his band is awesome. Not knowing the names of the band members, I can only say the dumbek and clarinet players are awesome. The dance floor is full and most definitely skewed to the younger generation. I love that the AYF has adopted live streaming.  People are listening and commenting from around the country. This will only nurture future interest to attend in-person.

Our intrepid photographers Sona Gevorgian, Tamar Kanarian, Leeza Arakelian and Azniv Kaligian were on the job and provided the amazing photos that accompany this article. Tamar told me she took 2,048 photos on Saturday! Thanks so much for your dedication and excellent work.

Arev Khaligian, Sona Gevorgian, Tamar Kanarian

The AYF Olympic Spirit shone brighter than the sun on Saturday in Providence.

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.

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  1. Thank you for mentioning Nareg Minassian my son in the article
    He is a prospective future Freshman student at Yale in the swim team as well on the fall of 2022, he still is a senior in high school this fall 2021.

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