An Alumni Perspective of Providence “Varante”

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Another Labor Day weekend is in the history books. The huge AYF Olympic trophy which was in the Fermanian Fellowship Hall in Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Providence, RI will now sit in a similar hall in Watertown as Greater Boston’s “Nejdeh” Chapter took first place with 166 points, followed by Detroit and Providence with 143 and 130 points, respectively. .

Providence AYF Chapter Dance (Photo: Sona Gevorkian)

The traditional ‘Hey Djan’ was played as the Varantians and alumni formed two huge circles in the packed house of the DCU Center in Worcester.

Four new records have been broken as these AYF Olympics continue to move in a positive direction with the number of athletes and crowds fueling the hope and promise that this weekend will continue to be the biggest gathering in Armenia in the eastern region of the United States for decades to come.

Our Providence “Varantian” team had been training for nine weeks, preparing to defend our title from last year. Thirty-eight members competed, continuing a tradition that dates back nearly to the 90s.

Chapter elders and members showed up in force at the church for the annual pep rally on August 31. The delicious food was prepared by Sonia’s Deli of Cranston, RI. A video of past AYF Olympics and awards dinners was shown. Many elders spoke, encouraging members to do their best while representing the Providence community.

We are always looking for new members: juniors (10-16) and seniors (16-26). Email [email protected]

Friday morning we got off to a great start in men’s tennis. There were 12 entrees, and by noon there were only four left, all from Providence. One reportedly said, “That’s awesome. No matter what happens, we take all four places.

We had a few entries in both men’s and women’s golf and took fourth place.

Friday was a coming out party in the pool with three swimmers who made a major impact individually and in the relays. Our swim team has helped us win so many gold and silver medals that we’ve lost count, and a record was set in the 200 medley relay by our Providence team.

Under sunny blue skies, Providence Varantians took to the field early Saturday morning and didn’t leave until the sun went down. They left behind the teams from the Manhattan, Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit chapters.

There were 15 teams in this year’s tournament, and we were seeded seventh after an early exit last year to title-winning Detroit.

Providence and Greater Boston shake hands after the game (Photo: Rich Kanarian)

Boston provided a tough challenge at noon, but we squeezed through with an 8-5 win. We quickly took a 4-1 lead over Detroit in the championship game and extended it to 15-5 before the defending champions came back with their imposing roster. But we also had programming that brought back memories of years ago when we were at our best.

Hagop Taraksian and Nareg Mkrtschjan celebrate their team’s softball win (Photo: Sona Gevorkian)

The softball tournament has grown to epic proportions. The pitches were perfect. The crowd was huge. There was live Armenian music and delicious Armenian food prepared by the Whitinsville church community.

This is the first time the Worcester Chapter has hosted an AYF Olympics in nearly five decades, and you’d think they’ve been hosting them from the start.

The AYF Olympics is a grueling weekend that requires committed members to do whatever is asked of them to score a point here and there for the team, and from a coach’s perspective, those who have chosen to compete were all. A few runners were injured running the 200 meters just as they finished first and second, so others had to step in and take their place in the final stints. Stories like this are endless.

Steve Elmasian, Steve Mesrobian and Nareg Mkrtschjan (Photo: Sona Gevorkian)

As I was leaving the hotel around 2 a.m., I ran into Gil Markarian, a Providence alum who now lives in Houston, and he congratulated us on all of our accomplishments. I realized that we should all be very proud to place first in the softball tournament with a solid third place overall.

Providence is only a fraction of the size of the Armenian communities in Boston and Detroit. There’s nothing we can do about it, but that will never stop us from representing our community with our goal of being first, no matter what we face.

We had members who had already moved into college neighborhoods at places like Rutgers and Purdue University, but they and their 36 other teammates were there for each other from the start of the golf and tennis tournaments on Friday morning until the swim meet that night at a softball tournament that lasted all day Saturday before the last out was recorded at another long day at track and field Sunday.

A booster club of AYF alumni will be formed to nurture and support our “Varantes”.

Our AYF juniors remain our main focus so that they learn the meaning of their belonging at a young age and have a smooth transition to a senior.

What we have here, almost nine decades of preparation, is quite impressive. Mal Varadian always said, “Make it better than it was,” and that’s still the plan.

The AYF Olympics will be held in Washington, DC next year. Plans are to bring that AYF Olympic trophy back to Fermanian Fellowship Hall as we try to win for the 42nd time in the 89 years that these games have been held.

Bring your children to our doorstep. We will make them better Armenians and future leaders of this community, even with all the other commitments they have on their schedule. The requirements for becoming an AYF member are not asking too much. It’s up to you to help us make the Providence “Varantian” Chapter even better than it is. Don’t assume they are too busy with school and other activities. We have several members joining their school’s track and field teams and other programs like golf, so they can be even better prepared next year.

You may have noticed that no athlete names were mentioned. That’s because they’re all valuable, regardless of their athleticism. We are proud of each of our members who participated, and the same goes for all AYF members who made this weekend a memorable one.

Congratulations to the Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter for their first place finish, to the Detroit “Kopernick Tandourjian” Chapter for edging out our team for second place, and to all of the teams and their member athletes. From top scorers and record breakers to scholarship winners and Ernest Nahigian and Cory Tosoian award winners; from the church of Whitinsville for their franchise efforts and the three-on-three basketball champions to the AYF and Worcester alumni and AYF central executive for making these Olympics one of AYF’s greatest in recent memory.

We hope to see you at the V-Ball in January where you will learn more about what the Providence Varantian Chapter has been up to throughout the year. They are counselors from Camp Haiastan; they serve on the altar of the church; they are part of the central councils of the AYF; one is the chairman of the central executive of AYF, and many more.

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Stephen Elmasian is co-president of the ANC-RI. He recently retired as tax manager to the RI Secretary of State.

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