North Salem High School swimmer Ashley Piacentino commits to Bucknell University


North Salem High School senior Ashley Piacentino at her athlete recognition ceremony Monday, Nov. 20. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

North Salem High School senior Ashley Piacentino has dedicated her life to swimming. The 17-year-old began swimming at age 4, competitive swimming at age 7 and this month she signed a national letter of intent to swim at the Division I collegiate level for Bucknell University beginning in 2023.

Piacentino says she has known since 4th grade that she wanted to compete at the collegiate level. “Being on a [swim] team with older kids, you look up to them and see what they’re going through,” Piacentino said. “Seeing these swimmers commit to D1 schools, how they get scholarships, go on training trips and these crazy competition meets…it’s just like, wow, there are so many doors that can be opened with a little hard work and motivation.”

There are no shortcuts when it comes to landing a coveted spot on any collegiate sports team, but swimming seems especially intense. Swimmers train year-round and Piacentino is in the pool 8-9 times per week. During peak season, she’ll often train 4-5 hours in a day, putting in two hours at the pool before 9:00 a.m. followed by a late afternoon session that includes an hour of dry land training in a gym followed by another 1-2 hours in the pool. Piacentino insists she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love how the water makes me feel, physically and mentally. It’s always cleared my head. If I miss a day of practice, I just feel off the next day.”

In a ceremony held at North Salem High School Monday afternoon, Piacentino was recognized for her accomplishments in front of her fellow students, coaches, teammates and peers. She was named All League for the past three years and All Section this year as a member of the combined North Salem - John Jay Cross River High School swim team. Piacentino also swims for the Ridgefield Aquatic Club (RAC), where she competes in local, regional and national events.

Ashley Piacentino with her NS-JJHS coach Suzanne Guziec (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

One of Piacentino’s favorite events is the relay, in which she swims anchor, the final position of the race. At the state meet in Webster, New York earlier this month, she and her team swam the 200 freestyle. “I love to be under pressure; in certain situations, it changes me. It strikes a nerve in me and I don't even think; I just go,” she explained. “I know that if I don’t swim fast, I am letting down my team and that is the last thing I ever want to do.”

Piacentino acknowledged the significant commitment required for competitive swimming. “You have to give up your social life,” she said, though she noted that she hasn’t felt as though she’s been missing out. “This is a dream and it was a goal for me to go D1. I told myself that the parties are never going to go anywhere, but swimming can take me places.”

Piacentino says she would not have been able to achieve her goal without the endless support of her family, including her two older sisters, Victoria and Isabella, and her parents. “My family has been through thick and thin with me. I cannot thank them enough for how much money and time they have poured into this sport–driving me to practices, taking time out of their weekends or off from work to spend an entire weekend at a hotel for swim’s a lot, and it takes a toll.”

Ashley Piacentino surrounded by her parents and older sisters. (Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo)

Piacentino says no matter how she performed at her meets, her parents were always there afterward with supportive words. “They were always motivating me. Even through horrible or rough meets they would say, listen, you can only go up from here. You’ve got to learn something from this.”

At Bucknell, Piacentino will be swimming three events, fewer than she currently competes in for RAC. She’s looking forward to being more focused (and rested), and to gaining new experiences with a new team. And it doesn’t hurt that Bucknell’s facilities are immaculate. “The pool at Bucknell is jaw-dropping,” she said. “I could kiss the floor, that's how clean it is.”

Piacentino has no way to know where swimming will take her next, but she is confident that she has found her lane.

“Once I visited Bucknell, I knew that was where I wanted to be. There was no other school that sparked my interest. I called them right away and said I want to be part of the family.” 

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