Mikey Brannigan has his sights set on the finish line, and nothing is about to get in his way.
The 18 year old prep distance runner is one of the top in the nation, and the teen powerhouse owes his success to a running group he joined at age 9. Brannigan has autism, and the Long Island native found his inspiration in the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program.
Grannigan’s mentors and supporters are impressed by his dedication. Many who have observed him running remark on his passion when it comes to the sport. One of his biggest supporters is his father Kevin.
“When Mikey is out there running, he’s just like every other kid,” Kevin Brannigan told the NY Daily News. “He’s accepted for who he is.”
Another one of the young athlete’s biggest fans is Dr. Norbert Sander, CEO of the Armory Track and Field Center in Long Island (which happens to the busiest indoor track complex in the nation) is excited to watch Brannigan train and improve each day.
“What a story this young man is,” says Dr. Norbert Sander. “What a story.”
Brannigan is a force to be reckoned with on the track. He is one of the best prep distance runners in the united states. Diagnosed before age 2 with autism spectrum disorder, Brannigan lost all his speech abilities by age 4. Once he joined the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Running Program a few years later, he was equipped with the focus and drive necessary to compete in an elite class of runners.
He quickly became an athletic phenomenon in his community, finishing 22nd out of 5,500 runners when competing in his first 10k at 12 years old. Last year, Brannigan snagged the New York State Federation cross-country title. This came just a few months after he had won the New Balance two-mile national championship, clocking in at 8:53:59.
The high school senior has received interest from Stanford, Oregon, North Carolina, and a number of other colleges. College has long been a dream of his, though at the moment he is unsure about the direction he will take.
Right now, Brannigan is at a crucial point in his running career and the next few months could shape his future in a big way. His coach Jason Strom has been behind him the whole way and is constantly impressed by his unfettered attitude on the track.
“Regardless of where you stand intellectually, everybody can achieve greatness if you find what you want and get after it,” Strom says. “The word autism doesn’t mean that you can’t excel — that you can’t be at the highest level of your sport — because that is (exactly what he has done).”