Pezza had tried other sports – gymnastics, soccer and basketball. None had held her interest….until she found track and field.
But when she tried out for the Western Hills team in the sixth grade, she was cut before the season even started.
She was devastated, but instead of hanging up her sneakers, she laced them tighter and began to train even harder.
The next year, not only did she earn a spot on the Western Hills team, she emerged as one of the program’s top runners. Her skill and work ethic caught the attention of Cranston West track coach Frank Notarianni.
“A lot of kids don’t come back after they get cut, but to her credit, she came back and worked really hard,” said Notarianni. “She started running for my non-profit youth program (CLCF). She’d run in the summer and trained hard to get better.”
“When she came up to West, she was one of our best runners, along with Ailani Sutherland. They finished second at freshman states with only four girls on the team. Because Ailani and Quiana were that good, they were able to raise the team up,” said Notarianni.
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Pezza isn’t isn’t the star of the team or Falcons’ fastest runner. Her teammate All-Stater Sutherland – one of the most domineering sprinters in the state – owns that title. But Pezza is one of the most versatile and, while you may not see her name in headlines every day, you can see her in the gym or on the Falcons new multi-million dollar track – training and helping others.
She competes in multiple events — 4×200 meter relay, 55, 300, long jump, hurdles and triple jump. She continues to learn new events with the goal of contributing points – whatever she can to help her team.
This past spring at the outdoor state championships, Pezza scored in the long jump and the triple jump helping the Falcons place third overall – the highest finish ever in the history of the school.
“Quiana isn’t the fastest girl on the team, but she works hard. If she doesn’t hit her mark, she might get down, but she’ll work through and make sure next time she performs better. She contributes in so many ways and makes the team better. She’s always there willing to do whatever she can to help the team,” said Notarianni.
She earned All-NewEngland honors as a sophomore as part of the relay (Pezza, Sutherland, Praise Mason and Stalia Biosse) and went on to compete in the New Balance Nationals in Pennsylvania. Pezza never left the track, working all summer and fall to gear up for this winter’s indoor season.
The Falcons 4×200 meter relay team made up of Sutherland , Pezza, Praise Mayson and Julia Saccocio has already qualified for nationals. Notarianni said the goal is for Pezza to qualify in the long jump and triple jump.
“In the fall she was working out four days a week with a few other kids. I would be coaching cross country and look over and see her leading the exercises and facilitating the workouts, setting stuff up and putting things away. She’d be out there every day, working out to make sure she was ready for the season,” said Notarianni. “She’s always willing to show others how to do something, come to practice early to help me set up or whatever I need.”
“I’ve always made sure I am there early just to make sure if he (Notarianni) needs me to do anything. If I’m there early, I’ll go run up to the shed and whatever we need for practice or I’ll help another kid who has to learn blocks or something else,” said Pezza. “I just want to help everyone out..because that’s the kind of person I am.”
Pezza’s skill and work ethic isn’t what impresses Notarianni the most. It’s Pezza’s dedication to the team and her passion to help others. She spends her rare free time volunteering with CLCF s’ youth track program.
“Quiana used to run in that program and now gives back to it,” said Notarianni. “She’s done a great job helping out. She devises a work out and helps where needed. There’s times I need her to show kids a drill and readily she’ll come over and do it so they know how to do it correctly.. A bunch of kids helped out when I asked in the spring, but this time, Quiana volunteered on our own. She asked to help out. I was really impressed with that.”
“That (CLCF) was the start of me realizing how good of a runner I could be. I was very invested with everyone there. It’s a very fun community and I wanted to give back,” said Pezza. “As I’m at practice, I’m thinking what If one day I could give back and coach? Now I have the chance to coach these kids.
I’m a role model to them. I coach these kids like I have been coached and to see them succeed is very heartwarming,” she said.
Pezza said her desire to help others stems back from that day she was cut from the middle school team.
“I was that kid who wasn’t able to get on a team in sixth grade,” Pezza said.. “I didn’t get the opportunity that other kids had and then they (her teammates) took me under their wing in seventh grade and I got so many opportunities because they gave back to me. I’m trying to hand it over to the next generation of runners.”