EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.—The 56e The annual AYF-YOARF Midwest Junior Olympics were held July 15-17 in Granite City, Illinois. The hosts, the “Antranig” chapter of Granite City, welcomed athletes and guests from Chicago, Racine and Detroit for a weekend full of sports and spirited competition.
The weekend started on Friday evening with a picnic for the participants at Township Park. Athletes and alumni had the chance to meet and feast on a traditional Armenian barbecue. After the picnic, the families returned to the Holiday Inn Express to rest up for a long, hot day of sporting events.
Olympic events began at Edwardsville High School on Saturday morning. With temperatures expected to reach 100 degrees by 2:00 p.m., the past coordinators have done a fantastic job of keeping events moving and on time. A total of 41 AYF juniors competed this year, including many first-time entrants and new members.
“I loved my first year at the Junior Olympics,” said first-timer Eliza Nigoghosian from the Detroit section. “I met new people who were really nice and welcoming! This is something I will never forget!
The games took half the day and included field events like the baseball pitch, shot put, long jump, and races that drew proud parents and supporters.
From the early hours of the morning, it was clear that this year’s games would be a tight race between the Detroit chapter “Kopernik Tandourjian” and the Chicago chapter “Ararat”. Granite City were led by strong performances from Sarah and Nicholas Varadian, while Arev Buchaklian and Kapriel Mikaelian ensured Racine would also find his way to the medal stand. Chicago had strong performances from its young boys, and the Detroit girls didn’t back down from a challenge from Chicago.
During the opening ceremonies, athletes from all four chapters proudly held their chapter banners and waved to the cheering crowd. The ceremonies included an opening prayer by Der Taniel Manjikian, national anthems sung by Granite City member Narine Berberian and AYF alumnus Melanie Haroian, and messages from Nareg Mkrtschjan of the AYF Central Executive- YOARF and AYF Granite City Antranig Chapter President Elle Krikorian. The traditional passing of the torch from previous winners to next year’s hosts also took place when defending champions Chicago passed the torch to Detroit.
Similar to the annual AYF Olympics held over Labor Day weekend, this year’s Midwest Junior Olympics were limited to the ever-important relays. The Chicago and Detroit athletes knew crucial points were up for grabs, with their exact rankings still unclear. The young athletes stayed hydrated to beat the heat and get through the day of games safely. At the end of the relays, all the athletes gathered in the middle of the field to receive their medals for the individual and relay events.
After the games, everyone went back to the hotel to get ready for the Saturday night ball. More than 150 people attended the festivities at the St. Gregory Armenian Community Center in Granite City for a night of traditional Armenian dancing to the music of the Nigosian Band of Detroit. Local AYF parents, ARS members and volunteers prepared a fantastic meze table – a staple of all Granite City dances. Moments later, Mkrtschjan took the stage to announce the results of the competition, starting with the weekend’s top scorers.
|age range||Top Scorer||Chapter||Events won|
|Younger boys (10-13)||Armen Vartanyan||Chicago||50m, 100m, 200m|
|Young girls (10-13)||Sona Baldwin||Detroit||100m, 200m, long jump|
|Older girls (14-16)||Arev Buchaklian||Root||100m, 200m, 50m (2n/a)|
|Older boys (14-16)||Lucas 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 prizes. The Tina Peltekian Sportsmanship Award, in memory of Chicago Chapter member Ararat who died of cancer, was presented to Chloe Kindt for her sportsmanship and dedication to this year’s Games.
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.
The excitement in the room was palpable when Mkrtschjan finally announced the results of the chapter. 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 first-place Chicago.
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 their 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 putting on an amazing weekend!