Running For Gold In The Rio Paralympics

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Mikey Brannigan is an elite athlete with autism going to the Paralympics in Brazil this month.
Mikey Brannigan is an elite athlete with autism going to the Paralympics in Brazil this month.

His Facebook page is filled with photos from graduation, the beach and friends like any ordinary teenager, but Mikey Brannigan is far from ordinary. In 2015, the son of longtime Great Neck Park District (GNPD) Supervisor Kevin Brannigan and grandson of former GNPD Supervisor Desi Brannigan was third-fastest high school miler with a time of 4:03, the national champion high school 2 miler in the U.S. with a time of 8:42 and a six-time All-American while running for Northport High School. Mikey is also the current World Champion and World Record-holder in the T20 category 1500m with a time of 3:50. And, earlier this month, Mikey broke the 4-minute mile with a time of 3:57 at the Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh, NC.

Diagnosed with autism at age 2, Mikey hasn’t let anything stop him. The 20-year-old from East Northport has qualified to run the 1500m in the T20 category in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for Team USA at the 2016 Paralympic Games, a major international multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities, on Sept. 13.

And he’s the favorite to win the gold in Rio.

“Mikey was diagnosed officially with autism at 2 years old,” said his mother Edith Brannigan. “They knew when he was 18 months, but they won’t diagnose until 2-years-old. I knew at 12 months that something was wrong, but I didn’t know what exactly,” she continued. “He was running into walls and climbing onto everything. I called Suffolk County Early Intervention. They came and evaluated Mikey and, by 13 months, he was receiving speech, OT, PT and special-ed services in our home five days a week.”

Mikey Brannigan at the August 2015 ParaPan Games in Toronto
Mikey Brannigan at the August 2015 ParaPan Games in Toronto

At 18 months old, Mikey started attending the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) in Huntington, which he attended until he was 5-years-old when he was mainstreamed in Northport School District for kindergarten.

Mikey’s father, Kevin, who grew up in Kings Point and graduated from Great Neck North High School in 1981, has been a senior supervisor of the GNPD for 33 years, and Kevin’s father, Desi, was supervisor of parks for 33 years when he retired, and later passed away in 1999. Edith grew up in Great Neck, too.

Running was a natural choice for Mikey. “He was always extremely hyperactive and when he started running with Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program at 7-years-old and his running became structured, he thrived on it,” explained Edith. “I believe that the structured running changed his brain, to allow him to focus and absorb and retain information. Two years after he started running, he went from ‘special academics’ within the classroom of typical students to age-appropriate academics at the same level as his typical peers. The running ransformed him completely—socially, academically and emotionally.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

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In addition to being editor of the Great Neck Record, Sheri ArbitalJacoby utilizes her more than three decades of publishing experience as a managing editor at national magazines to spearhead Anton Media Group's special edition magazines. She also writes decorating, travel and green articles for <a href=”http://longislandweekly.com” Long Island Weekly and Anton's special sections.

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