Athlete of the Week: Michael Pizzella

Sophomore places 13th in state sectional final

Nolan Wasserman, Sports Writer

Recent Performance: In the North 1, Group 3 State Sectional Final, Pizzella placed 13th, finishing the 5000 meter race in an astounding 17:53. This final run capped off what has been a great season for Pizzella, a season in which he has asserted his dominance as not only one of the best there is at PV, but as one of the best there is, period.

Recent Team Results: Pizzella fronts an extremely talented young core of the cross country team, a core that includes the likes of fellow sophomores Connor Oates, Jay Ramirez, Chris Martino, and Aaron Ng. Add in veteran seniors Jack Hachadourian and Chris Alepa, and you have the recipe for an extremely gifted and dedicated team. As a team, PV finished 13th in the North 1, Group 3 State Sectional Final. 

“The team did awesome,” Pizzella said of Valley’s performance in the last race. “Everybody really stepped up.” 

Pizzella’s Contributions: If you ask any coach who their dream athlete would be, they would probably end up describing Michael Pizzella. His perfect combination of coachability, positivity, and work ethic are the secret in his recipe for success. 

“I always bring my hard working attitude and positive mindset,” Pizzella said. “I try to be as much of a leader and give 100% every day.”

Expectations for the Future: By any standard, Pizzella had a successful season, but he is always looking to improve. In the future, he hopes to finish at the top in the state sectional final. 

“I definitely want to get to [coming in first in the sectional final] one day.” 

While this may be ambitious, nothing is out of the reach for the ever-improving Pizzella.

Pizzella has high hopes not only for himself, but for the entire team as well.

“Next year is going to be great,” Pizzella said. “We’ve seen how well we can race, and now everybody wants to do better. Everybody can do better.” 

On top of this, Pizzella wants to put cross country in the spotlight at PV, and he hopes the successes of the team will contribute to this. 

“We are going to try to popularize cross country within our school,” Pizzella said.

Motivation: “Knowing that you can always do better is my biggest motivation,” Pizzella said.

There is no better way for Pizzella to see his potential than comparing himself to his opponents. 

“I look at other kid’s times, and I am just motivated to beat them next year,” Pizzella said.

What Pizzella Likes Most About Cross Country: “The end [of the race] is one of my favorite parts of cross country because you never know what is going to happen,” Pizzella said. “You just need to put your head down and run.” 

Best Sport Memory: Last season, Pascack Valley’s freshman team won the League Championship Meet – a moment that Pizzella cherishes. 

“[Winning the league] was such an amazing moment,” Pizzella said of the culmination of a full season’s worth of hard work. “It was awesome.”

Proudest Moment: Pizzella was able to set a new personal record this year, 17:04, wildly surpassing any expectations he may have had. 

“Everyday during the summer I was just getting up and training hard for that moment,” Pizzella said.

Best Thing About PV: Similar to many others, Pizzella treasures the school atmosphere at PV. 

“The unity – you can get it anywhere else,” Pizzella said of the school’s culture. “Everybody is always supporting each other.”

Favorite show: Avatar, The Last Airbender

What type of music they’ve been listening to: Rap

Favorite Artist: Lil Uzi Vert

Pregame meal: Pizzella sticks with a classic before every meet: toast with peanut butter. He is only able to describe his pregame feast in two words: “It’s perfect.”

Sport Superstitions: Pizzella always ices his legs at home the night before a meet.
Favorite Pro Athlete: Tyler Herro and Galen Rupp

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Strawberry

One Superpower: Super Strength

What He Does In His Free Time: While running is his passion, and he immediately blurts this out when asked about how he spends his free time, Pizzella also enjoys spending time with friends and family.

One Thing People May Not Know: Pizzella is an avid guitar player, an activity he harnessed in his time away from running.

Role Models: “100%, my coaches are my role models,” Pizzella said. “[Brian] Koch, [Russ] Grier, [John Murtaugh] – all of them are just awesome coaches,” Pizzella said. “I’m thankful since they have all helped me get to where I am.”

Future Plans: “I want to race well for the next few years, and I would love to continue running in college,” Pizzella said. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work.” 

For now, Pizzella can’t wait until next summer rolls around so he can get back to the grind of the cross country season. 

Pizzella on his current situation: “When I was little, I never expected to ever be a varsity athlete in any sport,” Pizzella said. “It’s such a great opportunity to be in the position where I am with the team’s great environment and my awesome coaches. It’s such a nice place to be able to go to everyday after school.”

Last Word: “This year has shown me when you put in the work, you can do a lot of great stuff,” Pizzella said. “[The team is] going to do some amazing things.”