Former Observer Athlete of the Year Pezzolla reflects on year at Monmouth

It was shaping up to be the best year of Giulia Pezzolla’s young life.

Honored last year as The Observer Female Athlete of the Year after a brilliant career at Lyndhurst High School, starring in soccer and track and field, Pezzolla headed off to Monmouth University for the next chapter in her impressive athletic career.

Pezzolla signed a national letter of intent to run track at the West Long Branch institution.

Pezzolla’s freshman campaign started off without a hitch, participating in cross country in the fall.

“I trained hard for cross country,” Pezzolla said. “But I knew that I really wasn’t going to run. It was more for training for indoor and outdoor. I ran in one meet, but I was unattached (not associated with Monmouth). I was basically just getting ready for indoor, but mostly focusing for outdoor.”

But training for the cross country team was a huge benefit for Pezzolla.

“I felt like I was building up my stamina and endurance,” Pezzolla said. “I was going out for runs every Friday morning at 6:30 a.m. It was all very new to me, running distances like that. We would run sometimes to the beach, but mostly, it was around the track. At first, I didn’t like it, but then I started to enjoy it. It was nice running to the beach. That was fun, mostly watching the sun rise. It was a whole new animal for me.”

Pezzolla was a standout middle distance runner for Lyndhurst and was planning to do the same for the Hawks in the winter and spring. But the distance training was part of the process.

“I adapted to it well,” Pezzolla said. “I could feel the difference. I can run a lot longer now.”

So when the indoor track and field season began in November, Pezzolla was ready.

“I felt really strong for indoor,” Pezzolla said. “I was running the 400 (meter run) and the 600 (meter run) as well as the 4×4 (meter relay). Most of the time, we went to (the Ocean Breeze Indoor Track and Field facility) in Staten Island, but a few times, we went to the New York Armory. We also went to one meet in Boston.”
Pezzolla said that she felt a lot stronger and faster than she did running last year for the Golden Bears.

“I definitely felt a lot better than high school,” Pezzolla said. “I felt a lot stronger. I ran a PR (personal record) in the 800 (meter run at 2:23). I was getting used to all of it. I could see that the training definitely helped. I felt like I had the potential to run under 2:20 outdoors. I felt really good.”

Pezzolla was all set to run the 400, 800 and 1,600-meter runs for the Hawks in the spring season.

The first meet was set for March 23. Pezzolla had returned to Lyndhurst for spring break right before that date.

“I was training real hard and felt really good,” Pezzolla said.

But then, disaster struck. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting everything on hold.

“I didn’t get one race (outdoors),” Pezzolla said. “I felt like I was more than ready. It was the strongest I felt my whole life.”

When news of the pandemic hit, Pezzolla had no idea what was going to transpire next.

“I was like ‘Wow, what do I do?’” Pezzolla said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was training for so long every day, every month. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing.”

At first, Pezzolla thought that the break would only be a few weeks, but then finally, every NCAA collegiate institution ceased athletic operations for the spring semester. Pezzolla remained at home at Lyndhurst, taking classes online.

As an athlete, Pezzolla was limited as to what she could do.

“I was working more on distance rather than speed,” Pezzolla said. “I’ve become used to learning to work and time myself. By the end of June or July, I can get back on the track and run.”

Moving forward at Monmouth, Pezzolla will be focused more on running the 800 and 1,600-meter races.

“I don’t think I’ll train for the 400,” Pezzolla said. “I’ll move it up a little.”

But Pezzolla will go back to Monmouth with the idea of training for cross country season in the fall.

“I definitely enjoy training for cross country,” Pezzolla said. “I’m hoping to run.”

Pezzolla is a secondary education major, with a specialty in special education, much like her Lyndhurst High soccer and track coach Kim Hykey.

“She is definitely like my role model,” Pezzolla said. “When I was at Lyndhurst, I would go to her class and help her with things. I want to do that as well.”

Because of the lost semester due to the pandemic, the NCAA has awarded all students an extra year to compete in college athletics.

“I definitely think I’ll take advantage of that and take a fifth year,” Pezzolla said. “I’ll take that option.”

But as she trained so hard to run in her strongest events, the year came crashing down – and not because of an injury or illness. It was out of Pezzolla’s control.

“Honestly, it sucks,” Pezzolla said. “At first, I was really upset.”

However, recently, she’s had a change of heart.

“But now, I look at it that I spent this year becoming a better athlete,” Pezzolla said. “It’s up to now what I can do on my own. Some athletes don’t do anything on their own. I’m doing well with it.”

Pezzolla said she’s now running about 25-to-30 miles a week, which is fine for a newly-minted middle distance runner.

So if you see a fair haired beauty running through the streets of Lyndhurst or perhaps on the track at the high school, it’s only 2018-2019 Observer Female Athlete of the Year Giulia Pezzolla.

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”