By Janee Law
Michael “Mikey” Brannigan, a 2015 Northport High School grad, continues to soar in his athletic career as he has been voted the Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.
Brannigan, of East Northport, who happens to have autism, was shocked and humbled by the honor, which he received on Nov. 29 at the 2017 Team USA Awards.
“It was unreal and it’s an honor,” Brannigan said. The awards show, hosted by actor and singer Mark McGrath, was recorded and will air on NBC on Saturday, Dec. 23 at 5 p.m.
This year, the 21-year-old won the men’s 1,500-meter at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational and improved on his own world record in the 5,000-meter with a time of 14:09.51 at the Mt. SAC Relays, before capping the season with three world championship medals.
Sonja Robinson, his coach since he graduated from Northport, said that although Brannigan doesn’t race to win awards, this one puts an exclamation point on all the hard work he’s put in.
“He’s worked really hard to achieve what he’s been able to achieve, and he’s able to do things that I didn’t think he’d be able to do in this short period of time,” Robinson said. “He’s learned how to race, how to win races, and how to go through a racing championship situation with a lot of pressure.”
Brannigan is the top-ranked runner in the men’s T20 classification for the 800-meter, 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter distances, but he didn’t let that faze him this year as he earned three championship medals, including two golds, in the races. He also won gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Also in 2017, along with improving his record in the 5,000-meter, Brannigan set T20 world records in both the 1,500-meter race with a time of 3:44.39; and 3,000-meter with 8:07.64.
Robinson said that Brannigan has grown exponentially in the two years she’s coached him.
And Brannigan agrees. “I really came a long way improving myself and getting better and better with my running and my strategy,” Brannigan said.
Looking over his time as a runner, Brannigan said he’s most proud of the two gold medals he earned at the 2017 World Champion Paralympian in London, and his gold medal from Rio.
His goal is to continue to improve his times and qualify for the 2018 USA Track & Field Outdoor Nationals.