Over 200 Colleges Want This 17 Year Old Autistic Runner

by
Suzanne Robertson
Mike Brannigan runs so fast his coach sometimes has to slow him down so he won’t hurt himself.

A Senior at Northport High School, Brannigan is a household name in Long Island running circles. This season he won the Suffolk Cross Country Championship, the New York race at the Nike Cross Regional's, set the LI spring two mile record while winning a national title, and was part of the mile relay team that set a NY state record in June.

He also happens to have autism. And that may be part of the reason he’s as good a runner as he is. He's obsessed with speed and loves the repetitive motion and rhythm. His coach sometimes has to slow him down so he won’t hurt himself.

Brannigan's name, face, and story got national exposure when he was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams this week. 

The story focused on Brannigan's success despite having autism. When asked by reporter Kate Snow if having autism makes him a better runner, Brannigan's reply was simple.

"It makes me a better person," he said.

Over two hundred colleges have reached out to him, some with top running programs like the University of Colorado, the University of Oregon, Duke, Georgetown, Syracuse, Wisconsin, UNC, Virginia, Stanford. 

Doctors predicted early in his life that Brannigan would need a special school and a group home. He's now a senior at Northport public High School on Long Island and does well. 

“I know what running's done for Mikey,” says his mom, Edie Brannigan. “It has allowed him to focus -- in such a way that his academics soared after he started running. It was something in his brain was able to calm down and focus on the academics.”

“Mikey's dream is to go to a Division One school and succeed there academically and run against the best college runners in the country,” his mom continued.  “That's his dream. And we want to support him in that dream. But with the NCAA academic requirements, educational requirements, we don't know if it's possible.”

Brannigan is determined to keep pursuing his running dreams.

“I want to be a professional athlete,” he says.  He even hopes to compete in the Olympics.

“I had a dream-- a day dream of them,” he says. “Wearing my USA jersey, and representing my country… and the whole nation… a whole America watching me.” 

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