Johnstown’s Askew ready for state meet

JOHNSTOWN – After a season full of personal bests and pool records, Johnstown senior Erica Askew will look to conclude her high school career with another memorable effort this weekend at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Championships at Ithaca College.

Askew will compete in the 100-yard breaststroke at the two-day event, which begins Friday with the swimming preliminaries.

“I would like to see Erica finish her high school swim career on a high note,” Johnstown coach Julianna Popp said. “She has worked very hard over the past few years to be so successful and I want to see her achieve a personal best and place well in her event.”

Askew set a new personal best and a school record in the 100 breaststroke in her last outing Nov. 9 at the Section II Division II Championships at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park. Askew won the event with a time of 1:05.89, a mark that matched the Shenendehowa pool record, set by Saratoga Springs’ Caroline Conboy on Nov. 3, 2012. Askew’s time also broke the Johnstown school record of 1:07.57 set by Betsy Sammons in 1985.

The win wasn’t an easy one as Askew edged Scotia-Glenville eighth-grader Olivia Jack by just 0.11 seconds.

Askew also won the 200-yard individual medley at the Section II Championships, posting a time of 2:13.21.

With the experience of one state meet under her belt, Askew is hoping that will serve her well this weekend.

“I definitely think that going for a second time will help. I feel like I’m better prepared this year,” she said. “To have the experience of being there and facing the pressure helps me know what to expect.”

Last season, Askew waited until her final opportunity to qualify for the state championships, winning the 100 breaststroke at the sectional meet with a state-qualifying time of 1:08.14.

This year, she left little to chance, qualifying for the state meet in Johnstown’s second meet of the season.

Askew posted a pool record time of 1:08.59 in a Foothills Council meet at Glens Falls.

“Last year, it was really stressful because it took so long to qualify for states,” Askew said. “This year, I was so glad I made it earlier. It really took the pressure off, and I was able to focus on swimming some other events for my team.”

Despite having just eight swimmers its roster this season, Johnstown managed a 4-3 overall record as Askew and her teammates spread themselves out over 12 events every time out. The Lady Bills also will have a representative at the state meet for the fifth straight year.

“It feels great to once again have an athlete represent our team at the state championship meet,” Popp said. “It’s a real motivating force for the other swimmers within our swim program to strive for this level of success.”

In the two weeks since the Section II meet, Askew has been traveling to Niskayuna High School to take part in sectional practices twice a week. She also practiced on her own at Johnstown.

The two-week break between meets has required Askew to adjust her training.

“Having a two-week break between sectionals and states throws things off,” she said. “You have to re-taper for states.”

The state meet is just the latest big meet for Askew, who competed the Eastern Zone Long Course Age Group Championship at the Collegiate School Aquatics Center in Richmond, Va., in August.

Askew, who swims for the Albany Starfish Swim Club in the offseason, was the Eastern Zone Champion in the 15- to 18-year-old girls 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:16.96.

Askew was selected for the Adirondack team based on qualifying times achieved at USA Sanctioned Long Course swim meets during the 2013 season. Swimmers must post several qualifying times in the events they competed in and compete in the Adirondack Long Course Championships. Askew swam in four individual events as well as relays at the Eastern Zone Championship.

The Eastern Zone consists of 12 teams including Adirondack, Allegheny Mountain, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Metropolitan, Middle Atlantic, New England, New Jersey, Niagara, Potomac Valley and Virginia.

The Eastern, Southern, Central and Western Zones conduct all-star competitions for teams within their zones.

Her summer success continued into the fall as Askew’s time at the Section II Championships pushed her to third in the 100 breaststroke on the psych sheet for this weekend’s state meet.

Nyack junior Nicole Ciavarella is seeded first with a time of 1:04.99, while Northport senior Nicole Papsco is seeded second with a time of 1:05.03. Papsco was second in the 100 breaststroke at last year’s state meet, while Ciavarella was third. Papsco also was fourth in the NYSPHSAA state meet in 2011 and sixth in 2010.

Last year, Askew finished 17th at the state meet with a time of 1:08.89, a mark she shaved exactly three seconds off at the sectional meet.

“It’s weird how goals change,” Askew said. “When the season started, my goal was to be top 10 in the state. I didn’t expect to be seeded so high. Now, my goal is to stay in the top 10 and maybe get all-American consideration.”

To reach all-American consideration, Askew must post a time of 1:05.10 or lower this weekend.

“Erica has been working extremely hard for this meet. She has set very high goals for herself that she hopes to accomplish during the state championship meet,” Popp said. “She is currently seeded third in the 100-yard breaststroke and hopes to improve her time from her personal best at sectionals.”

The state meet begins Friday with the swimming preliminaries at 11:15 a.m. It concludes Saturday with the finals slated to begin at 10:15 a.m.