Saturday, May 08, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

Afragola Sprints to Success at Eastern Connecticut

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Nick Afragola enjoyed a nice career as a runner at Haddam-Killingworth and then continued seeing success at Eastern Connecticut State University before recently graduating. Photo courtesy of Nick Afragola

Nick Afragola enjoyed a nice career as a runner at Haddam-Killingworth and then continued seeing success at Eastern Connecticut State University before recently graduating. (Photo courtesy of Nick Afragola )

While growing up in Killingworth, Nick Afragola developed the athletic skills that drove him into playing soccer, basketball, and baseball. As a student at Haddam-Killingworth High School, Nick’s career path was headed in that same direction. Then it took a U-turn.

“Some friends of mine on the soccer team convinced me that track was something I should try,” Nick says. “I guess they saw me run on the soccer field and figured, hey, I could use that for other purposes.”

When the track season rolled around, Nick made his move and joined the H-K track program. Nick’s competitive spirit quickly kicked in once he stepped foot on the track for a Cougars’ club that always welcomed a challenge.

“Our relay team was very good. We competed on the Class M level, but we were able to blow away some LL and L schools,” says Nick. “We were counted out in just about every single meet. We found ourselves still being able to destroy some of the competition.”

From that point on, Nick traveled a path that led him to Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU), where he carried on a family tradition. Nick’s older brother Richie attended ECSU, and now his younger brother Lucien is running track at the school.

“When I finished high school, I knew I didn’t want to go that far away. I’m a homebody,” Nick says. “And right away, I looked at college as an investment. It would’ve cost me around $20,000 per year to go to either Quinnipiac or Fairfield. That’s crazy when you can get the same curriculum at a school like Eastern.”

Throughout his career at ECSU, Nick battled through injuries to propel himself to All-New England status as a Division III runner. Nick’s college coach Kathy Manizza was proud of him for his ability to overcome adversity.

“Nick is one of those athletes who, I could tell right away, knew exactly what he needed to do to make himself as good as he could be,” says Manizza. “The amazing part of his time here was how well he worked his way through some nagging and painful injuries. He had the smarts and the technique, and he was willing to work really hard.”

Nick dealt with a troublesome disc in his lower back that sidelined him at times. Still, he refused to let that injury prevent him from succeeding. Nick wound up racing his way into the record books at ECSU. His time of 7.27 seconds in the indoor 60-meter dash is the 11th best in school history. Nick’s mark of 11.01 for the outdoor 100 is the eighth-fastest time, and his time of 22.03 in the 200 puts him in fourth place.

Nick’s time in the 200 earned him a spot on the All-New England Team for the Little East Conference. This past spring, Nick served as a senior captain for the Warriors and helped his 4x100 relay team take eighth place at the conference meet.

“When I got to Eastern, I quickly realized that I needed to work on my technique, especially in the 200 meters, because I would be facing some very tough sprinters,” Nick says. “I soon learned that the key to success in the 200 was the final 100 meters. Getting into the turn and through it quickly made me a much faster and better college sprinter.”

At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Nick is rather small for a sprinter. However, Coach Manizza says that Nick used his grit and determination to find a way to get the job done.

“He loved working on the track and in the weight room,” she says.

After graduating from ECSU earlier this year, Nick took an analyst job with Infosys, a company based in Hartford.

“It’s a big change for me,” says Nick. “Now, it’s 9 to 5. Quite different from either high school or college.”

Nick, whose father Rich is a property manager, is hoping to go into real estate himself one day. While his running career has come to a close, Nick still enjoys getting out there to pound the pavement. He’s also thinking about becoming a coach down the road.

“I occasionally run,” Nick says. “Maybe up to five miles.”


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