Although he’s found the shift from cross country to indoor track “kind of weird,” as he told Long Island Newsday, Mike Brannigan is making it work. On Saturday, January 4, the junior from Northport High School wowed fans at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory, winning the mile with a time of 4:17.04 and earning a return trip to the New York City venue for next month’s NYRR Millrose Games.
Brannigan’s Hispanic Games mile victory follows a stellar cross country season in which he took first in the Nike Cross Nationals New York and placed second at the state cross country meet. His exploits are all the more compelling and inspirational because Brannigan is autistic, and when he was a small child, Runner’s World reports, his parents feared he’d grow up in a group home.
Fortunately, Brannigan found the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program, which recognized and nurtured his talent. Success on the track helped him improve academically, and he’s now looking ahead to college.
But that’s a bit further down life’s track. Next up are the Millrose Games, and when Brannigan lines up on February 15, he’ll face off once again with Saturday’s third-place finisher, James Burke of Port Jefferson High School, who punched his Millrose ticket in December with a win at the Bishop Loughlin Games, ArmoryTrack.com reports.
Burke held an early lead at Saturday’s Hispanic Games, but in keeping with his pre-race strategy, Brannigan bided his time and blew past him midway through the final lap.
"I wanted to stay right there, relaxed and smooth," Brannigan told Newsday. "I let Burke do all the work, stayed back, and enjoyed the ride."
Matthew Chisholm of Farmington also managed to outpace Burke, taking second in 4:17.49. Burke followed at 4:19.28.
If Brannigan is struggling with the transition from cross country to track, he’s confident he’ll continue to adapt and hopeful he’ll “break 4:10 in the mile,” as he told ArmoryTrack.com.
"It's difficult going from such a high endurance, mileage program to a more speed oriented event," Brannigan told Newsday. “These past few days we've been dusting off the cobwebs to try and get ready for it, but we'll be ready for these next few meets."
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg