Chicago victorious in 56th annual AYF Midwest Junior Olympics

2022 Midwest Junior Olympics athletes

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.—The 56th annual AYF-YOARF Midwest Junior Olympics took place from July 15-17 in Granite City, Ill. The hosts, the Granite City “Antranig” Chapter, welcomed athletes and guests from Chicago, Racine and Detroit for a weekend full of athletic competition and fraternal spirit.

Picnic at Township Park

The weekend started on Friday evening with a picnic for the attendees at Township Park. Athletes and alumni had a chance to catch up and feast on traditional Armenian barbecue. Following the picnic, families went back to the Holiday Inn Express to get some rest in anticipation of a long and hot day of athletic events. 

Granite City’s Gabby and Giselle Krikorian leading the picnic line dance

Olympic events started at Edwardsville High School on Saturday morning. With temperatures set to reach 100 degrees by 2:00 p.m., the coordinating alumni did a fantastic job of keeping the events moving and on time. A total of 41 AYF Juniors competed this year, including many first-time participants and new members. 

“I loved my first year of Junior Olympics,” exclaimed first-time participant Eliza Nigoghosian of the Detroit chapter. “I met new people who were really nice and welcoming! It’s something I will never forget!”

The games took up half the day and included field events like the baseball throw, shot put, long jump, and races that drew in proud parents and supporters.

It was clear from the early morning that this year’s games would be a tight race between the Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” Chapter and the Chicago “Ararat” Chapter. Granite City was led by strong performances from Sarah and Nicholas Varadian, while Arev Buchaklian and Kapriel Mikaelian ensured Racine would also find its way to the medal stand. Chicago had strong performances from its young boys, and the Detroit girls did not back down from a Chicago challenge. 

During the opening ceremonies, athletes from all four chapters proudly held their chapter banners and waved to the enthusiastic crowd. The ceremonies included an opening prayer by Der Taniel Manjikian, national anthems sung by Granite City member Narine Berberian and AYF alumna Melanie Haroian, and messages from the AYF-YOARF Central Executive’s Nareg Mkrtschjan and AYF Granite City “Antranig” Chapter president Elle Krikorian. The traditional passing of the torch from the previous victors to next year’s hosts also took place as defending champions Chicago passed the torch to the Detroit chapter.

Similar to the annual AYF Olympics held over Labor Day weekend, this year’s Midwest Junior Olympics came down to the ever-important relays. The Chicago and Detroit athletes knew that crucial points were up for grabs with their exact standings still unclear. The young athletes stayed hydrated to beat the heat and get through the entire day of games safely. Following the conclusion of the relays, all athletes gathered at mid-field to receive their medals for individual and relay events.

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After the games, everyone returned to the hotel to get ready for the Saturday night dance. Over 150 people attended the festivities at St. Gregory Armenian Community Center in Granite City for a night of traditional Armenian dancing to music by Detroit’s Nigosian Band. Local AYF parents, ARS members and volunteers prepared a fantastic mezze table—a staple at all Granite City dances. Moments later, Mkrtschjan took to the stage to announce the results from the competition, starting with the weekend’s high scorers.

High scorers Lukas Alexanian, Armen Vartanian, Arev Buchaklian, Sona Baldwin
Age Bracket High Scorer Chapter Events Won
Younger Boys (10-13) Armen Vartanian Chicago 50m, 100m, 200m
Younger Girls (10-13) Sona Baldwin Detroit 100m, 200m, long jump
Older Girls (14-16) Arev Buchaklian Racine 100m, 200m, 50m (2nd)
Older Boys (14-16) Lukas Alexanian Chicago 100m, 200m, long jump

Before announcing the final results, the microphone was passed to the Chicago and Detroit chapters for the presentation of two special awards. The Tina Peltekian Sportsmanship Award, in memory of the Chicago “Ararat” Chapter member who died of cancer, was presented to Chloe Kindt for her display of sportsmanship and dedication to this year’s games.

Pictured left to right: Aleena Surenian, Chloe Kindt, Armen Surenian, Daron Bedian

The Detroit chapter presented the Uncle Herman Sportsmanship Award to Lara Telbelian. The award is named in honor of longtime ARF advisor Herman Torigian, who mentored AYF DKT Juniors for over 40 years.

Lara Telbelian receiving the Uncle Herman Sportsmanship Award from coach Laura Nigoghosian

The excitement in the room was palpable as Mkrtschjan finally announced chapter results. In fourth place with 26 points was Granite City. Racine followed with 50 points. Detroit finished in second place with 113 points, just six points behind the first place finishers from Chicago. 

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After the awards ceremony, the AYF Juniors gathered for their traditional chapter dances. The crowd was very generous with their donations.

The Granite City “Antranig” Chapter would like to thank all of the athletes and families for traveling to participate in the weekend. The AYF Central Executive would also like to thank Granite City AYF, ARF, ARS and community members for hosting an amazing weekend!

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Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.
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