Brownsville Runner Gionna Quarzo Wins State Championship

Brownsville Runner Gionna Quarzo

Brownsville Runner Gionna Quarzo

Gionna Quarzo, 15, may have started off as a swimmer, but when she saw the Brownsville Area High School cross country track team jogging past her home every day, she decided she’d like to try running herself.

And try she did. Before the school year ended, she’d won the cross country Fayette County Championship while in the seventh grade and repeated the feat the following year.

Gionna still swims, currently as a member of the Uniontown YMCA swim team, but her main focus is now on running. This past school year, in May, she took part in the 2018 WPIAL Championship at Baldwin High School in three events. She came in sixth in the 1,600 meter run, third in the relay and, most impressively, first in the 3,200 meter run, which qualified her for the PIAA State Championship in Shippensburg at the end of May

In the 3,200 at Shippensburg, she bird dogged behind the lead runner for the first seven laps. When she started the eighth lap, she picked up the pace, forged ahead and won by3 or 4 seconds.

“I felt good the entire race, and wanted to stay behind the lead because I knew she was my speed,” Gionna said. “I didn’t know how well she sprinted, and when I saw that I’d won, I actually cried.”

For her efforts she took home a gold medal, much to the delight of her mother, Marci, her father, Rick, and sister, Jolena, 13, who all attended the State Competition.

“This was the first gold medal won by a female student at Brownsville Area Senior High School since Violet Michaux won one in 1999,” said Jim Barak, the school’s head track and field coach. “And it’s only the second time in the school’s history that a female student has won a gold medal at State.”

When asked about the secret to fast running, Gionna said “natural ability and hard work.” Daily she gets her mileage run in jogging around town and uses the school track for speed.

This year, Gionna started to train with the West Virginia Flyers in Morgantown two times a week under Jonathan Wright. She said the experience lets her run against faster girls and that Wright gives her harder workouts and corrects her technique when needed.

With a state gold already earned in her sophomore year, Gionna’s next goal is to run in the Brooks PR, a big invitational meet with some top female runners. She also has her eye set on breaking the state female record for the 3,200. Ironically, she came pretty close to matching the current record of 10 minutes, 34 seconds when she came in at 10 minutes, 48 seconds in Shippensburg this May.

“Gionna is a very nice, polite and humble girl,” Barak said. “I had her in my Ancient Civilizations class and found out about her athletic ability when the middle school coach phoned me and said ‘You have a really good runner in Gionna Quarzo.’

“When I first saw her run, I was very impressed,” he continued. “She’s a real hard worker, and, to my knowledge, she’s the first Brownsville student to run in the Penn Relays. I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do next track season, and we’ll do everything we can to help promote and encourage her.”

Gionna Quarzo’s Running Accomplishments to Date

Two time County Champion MVP for Cross Country for two years in a row.

Two time All County Track Team member

Nov. 2017 – Nike Regional Cross Country Meet – 30th out of 600 runners

Feb. 2018 – New Balance Indoor Nationals. Came in the top 20.

April 26-28, 2018 – The Penn Relay Carnival (world’s biggest track meet) won 15th overall.

June 2018 – New Balance Outdoor Nationals Placed 16th in the nation.

2017 – Placed 3rd female in Four on the 4th  Race in Morgantown.

Story by Dave Zuchowski for Pennsylvania Bridges