CCSU Track Star Angie Rafter Goes Pro



Rafter crosses the finish line at a meet.

Katherine Neilan, Staff Writer

Central Connecticut State University cross country and track and field star performer Angie Rafter signed to run professionally for Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project on April 6.

“It was always a dream of mine as a runner to make it to the next level, but it wasn’t a realistic goal,” Rafter said. “Once I entered graduate school, I really started to shift my focus towards believing in myself that I could compete at that next level.”

During her six years running for CCSU, Rafter captured 19 Northeast Conference titles and earned five NEC Most Outstanding Performer accolades. Last spring, Rafter completed her college career by earning the NEC Indoor Most Valuable Performer and Most Outstanding Track Performer awards.

Rafter was also a standout on the cross country team. She led CCSU to four NEC Championships and became the second runner in NEC history to win three individual cross country crowns.

“CCSU is a very high-volume program that makes us compete at that next level,” Rafter said. “I think our team benefits from that strength. I’ve done well in the program, but we also have a lot of other athletes who have really succeeded at CCSU because of this.”

When Rafter came to Central in 2018, she was recruited as a middle-distance runner and only focused on training for events such as the 800-meter, 1,500-meter, and mile.

It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that Rafter started to train at higher volumes for longer distances and switched to running the 5K and 10K events, she said.

“I entered college as a mediocre middle-distance runner. I was never finishing in the top spots,” Rafter said. “Then, obviously, COVID hit, and that’s when things shifted for me. I really focused on getting training and miles in during those COVID years, and the results made me start seeing myself running after CCSU.”

Taking her running career to the next level could not have been possible without the support from the CCSU athletics administration and coaching staff, Rafter said.

“I had the best coaching staff being my biggest support system and giving me the advice that I needed,” she said.

Cross country and track and field head coach Eric Blake says Rafter’s collegiate career changed the intensity and leadership of the program.

“It’s been a fun six years, and I’m really glad that Angie, of course, chose Central,” Blake said. “It’s like she redefined what’s fast for our team, which is awesome. Having her on the team, you could really see her have a bunch of teammates follow her example.”

Blake said that when Rafter was still on the team, he would meet with her weekly to talk about how she was feeling and her workout schedule to improve her running times.

According to Blake, Rafter’s drive to continuously improve herself and the team is one of the reasons why her athletic career is being taken to the professional level.

“She’s a very coachable athlete,” Blake said. “She was always shooting to do better in the next race. Even with a very successful result, she always wanted to race a little faster, and that’s what got her to such good heights at CCSU and now beyond.”

Hansons-Brooks ODP is stationed in Michigan, where post-collegiate long-distance runners train to compete nationally and internationally. Their resume includes multiple world championship qualifiers, four Olympic qualifiers, and an athlete who won the 2018 Boston Marathon.

According to the Hansons-Brooks website, their goal for runners is to make it to the Olympics and see how fast they become as individuals.

Rafter chose to sign with Hansons-Brooks ODP because their coaching staff and the women on the team were very welcoming during her visit, which brought Rafter back to her time at Central, she said.

“It’s the team atmosphere that reminds me so much of home at CCSU,” Rafter said. “The team aspect is extremely important because I’m someone who thrives off of my teammates. When I did my visit, this felt like home and right to make this transition here.”

Once Rafter moves in and starts training with the team, she said she hopes to achieve faster running times and attempt to make her debut in the Olympics.

“The biggest goal right now is trying to get my 5K and 10K personal records down,” Rafter said. “The Olympics are coming, and my plan would be to try an Olympic trial qualifier in the marathon.”