Reflecting on my last NAT as an AYF member

When you’re in your 18th and final year in the AYF-YOARF, every event that you attend just feels a little different. You’ve been to them all at this point in your AYF career, but there is a moment at each event when you realize that this will be your last as an AYF member. Of course we will continue to attend events as alumni, but we all know that these events are more special and memorable when you’re part of the collective group of ungers throughout the Eastern Region.

Nareg Mkrtschjan (pictured second from the right) with his teammates on the Providence volleyball team

It is truly bittersweet, as my fellow aging out/graduating unger Aram Keshgegian from Philadelphia put it while we talked at the AYF-YOARF National Athletic Tournament (NAT) hosted by the Granite City “Antranig” chapter.

Although nobody asked for this, I thought it would be nice and sentimental to document my thoughts and experiences after each regional event in my last year in the AYF-YOARF. So, to start off, here are the observations I made at my last NAT in Granite City:

  • Many people don’t get a chance to go to Granite City during their AYF career – every AYF member should take the opportunity to go at least once. I am lucky to have been able to go three times. They are small but mighty, with one of the strongest core groups of AYF, ARF and ARS ungers to support the community. Let’s not forget about their community center that we all saw on Saturday night – what an incredible venue!
  • In men’s basketball, Detroit and Greater Boston will be the expected matchup for the next three to five years. It will be interesting to see if anyone can knock off one of these two. North Andover? Providence at home next year? A solid mixed team? Only time will tell.
  • The New Jersey women are on the brink of building a dynasty. They did not disappoint their fans over the past two NATs with back-to-back championships, and their core group of young players is only going to get better. With recent alumna and NAT legend Theresa Jelalian at the coaching helm, they may have the upper hand. Let’s see if Detroit or the Philadelphia girls bring the competition in coming years.
  • Don’t sleep on the Greater Boston women next year in Providence, as the duo of veteran Sena Changelian and up-and-coming star Alina Ouligian was a sight to see. Alina was making it rain from three-point land throughout all of her games.
  • Seeing two sets of brothers battle it out in the men’s championship final was an incredible sight – yet another special experience you get in the AYF. The Tcholakian brothers (Mher and Sasoun) facing off against the Charchaflian brothers (Joey and Sam) is what NAT is all about. Everyone should watch out in 2026 when the youngest Charchaflian brother Jack joins the “Nejdehs.” Sources say he’s the best player of the three brothers. 
  • Winning a third consecutive volleyball championship for my hometown Providence chapter was a great way for me to close my NATs career. I have accomplished many things throughout my AYF years, whether it be serving on Central Councils, winning AYF Olympics or participating in our abroad programs. However, winning a NAT was one that eluded me. Maybe I’ll have to come back as a coach someday…
  • One of my favorite moments of the weekend was watching the Detroit fans cheer on another fellow graduating ungerouhi, Knar Topouzian, with cheers of “We love Knar!” She’s been a dominant force at NATs throughout her whole career, with many championships under her belt – the event won’t be the same without her!
  • We should all work on getting the AYF-WUS attendees back to NATs. It was always a blast competing against them and having ungers from outside our region at our events. Let’s start spreading the word when we see them at the 2024 AYF Olympics in Detroit.
Nareg Mkrtschjan

Nareg Mkrtschjan

Nareg Mkrtschjan is the current Chair of the AYF-YOARF Central Executive and a member of the Providence “Varantian” Chapter. He has held many leadership roles throughout his AYF career, participating as an AYF intern in 2017 and director in 2018, Javakhk counselor in 2016 and 2017, serving on central councils and his local executive. Nareg met his wife, AYF Camp Haiastan Executive Director Kenar Charchaflian through the AYF and even popped the question to her at AYF Convention at Camp Haiastan. They happily live in Rhode Island with their son Mshag, a future unger.
Nareg Mkrtschjan

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