Reflecting on my last JWO as an AYF member

15-year-old Nareg Mkrtschjan at JWO in New Jersey, 2011

Continuing my goal of documenting my thoughts throughout my last year in the AYF-YOARF, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my last Mid-Atlantic/New England Junior Winter Olympics (JWO).

I snuck my way into my first Junior Winter Olympics at the age of nine – don’t ask me how! I have many great vivid memories at JWO, including one year where I won chess, checkers, tavloo and ping pong, as well as driving down to New Jersey to play basketball with those who would be my future NAT teammates for years to come. JWO is truly a special event, as it is the first Junior event of the AYF-YOARF calendar year and helps to keep our Juniors engaged throughout the spring months ahead of Junior Seminar.

Here are the observations I made at my last JWO in Queens, New York:

  • The Mid-Atlantic Juniors are making their presence known. All of these chapters attended in strong numbers, making up over 125 of the event’s 140+ attendees.
  • A special shout-out to the Washington D.C. “Sevan” Chapter, which sent an incredible 37 athletes to this year’s JWO. Through the constant strength and support of their advisors and Seniors, the “Sevan” Chapter has grown tremendously over the past few years. All of our region’s chapters should aim to emulate this success. It all starts with our Seniors – we MUST invest our time and efforts into our Juniors.

    The air mattress that saved Nareg’s lumbar
  • That being said, there are always improvements to be made. I would like to see more New England Juniors at next year’s JWO. I recall in my Junior days when the New England members were the majority of attendees – we have some work to do to get back to those times. I urge all parents, siblings and Seniors to do everything in their power to get their Juniors to JWO next year.
  • JWO is near and dear to my heart; however, there are two things I will definitely NOT miss.
    • First, sleeping on the ground of several church halls across our region. I finally smartened up after 11 years of attending as a Senior and brought a queen-size air mattress to this year’s JWO. Advice to my younger Seniors: this is a game changer, and my 27-year-old back can vouch for this.
    • Second and requiring no further explanation: the aroma of the church hall after hundreds of Juniors play football catch, tag, soccer, volleyball. It is a pungent smell that is not easily forgotten.
  • My favorite moment was watching three new Juniors take their oath in front of all their fellow Junior members. It is a tradition I hope we can continue to grow in future years. This moment was especially noteworthy for me, as my young first-cousin Ara Megerdichian of the Manhattan “Moush” was one of the newly-sworn-in Juniors. I hope Ara goes on to have as many, and even more, incredible memories in this beautiful organization as I have had.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Our Juniors never cease to amaze me. With over 140 Juniors, keeping the board games moving along and on schedule is no easy task. However, many Juniors took it upon themselves to help the CAC and CJC track down their friends when it was time for their matches. Small acts of leadership like this that snowball into bigger responsibilities in the organization are what make the AYF-YOARF spirit continue to perpetuate in our future generations.
  • There is one AYF-YOARF regional event that I never was able to attend in all my years, and that is the Midwest JWO. Knowing how close-knit the Midwest is, I encourage any Mid-Atlantic or New England members to try to attend the Midwest iteration of the games. The fraternal spirit in the Midwest is and has always been especially strong, and attending other district’s events only helps broaden your perspective as an AYF-YOARF member.

    Nareg Mkrtschjan with Aleen Kalayjian and her trophies
  • There are two Mid-Atlantic board game juggernauts to keep an eye out for.
    • First is Haig Penenian from the Washington D.C. “Sevan” Chapter, who has dominated the chess tournament at JWO akin to Garry Kasparov in the 80s and 90s. Let’s see who will be the first to knock him off – he has been untouchable for the past few years. 
    • Second is newcomer Aleen Kalayjian of the New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter. Aleen, in her first year of competition, won the checkers tournament, finished second in the tavloo tournament and made the semi-finals of the chess tournament, helping lead the New Jersey chapter to a first-place overall finish. I have a feeling she will continue to rack up more trophies in years to come.
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

Latest posts by Nareg Mkrtschjan (see all)

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.