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Mikey Brannigan proudly displays the United States Flag as he races down the London track during the 2017 World Para Athletes Championships. File photo

By Desirée Keegan

Mikey Brannigan didn’t roam the halls of Northport High School, he ran down them. He’d dash through the doors as others raced behind him, saying “catch me if you can.”

“Stop that kid,” Brannigan said they would shout, laughing.

Mikey Brannigan received a proclamation from New York State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. Photo from Assemblyman Lupinacci’s office

Brannigan battled his way to a successful high school career, and beyond after graduating in 2015. The runner is continuing to exceed expectations — being the only Paralympic athlete in history to hold simultaneous records in the 1,500-, one-mile, 3,000- and 5,000-meter events. He brought home two gold medals — in the 1,500 and 800 — and silver in the 5,000 at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships at the end of last month.

“Make no mistake about it Mikey wants to be the best,” his New York Athletic Club coach of two years, Sonja Robinson said. “His drive — it shines out. You see it. He loves running.”

Brannigan was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old, and began running at 8. Fast-forward 11 years, when as a 19-year-old he became the first individual with autism to win a gold medal in the 1,500. He also became the first athlete with a T-20 Paralympic classification to shatter the 4-minute mile threshold in August 2016 with a 3 minute, 57 second finish at the Sir Walter Miler meet in Raleigh, North Carolina. A month later, he competed in the Special Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he took home the gold after a dominating 3:51 in the 1,5000.

Mikey Brannigan, at center, is surrounded by politicians and coaches as he shows off his new proclamations and gold and silver medals. Photo from Assemblyman Lupinacci’s office

Now at 20, he’s training to compete in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

“I’m taking it little by little and want to show everyone that if you take even little steps you can achieve your dreams,” Brannigan said. “Look at all you can achieve. Work hard and you can achieve your dreams. You can achieve anything.”

Brannigan was honored by local government officials at Northport High School Aug. 9, receiving accolades for his accomplishments, while the members also dubbed Aug. 9 Mikey Brannigan Day in New York.

“He’s truly our hometown hero,” state assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) said. “Mikey’s story is nothing short of amazing. What he has accomplished at his age is unheard of. His achievements are a true testament of his hard work, dedication, perseverance, sweat and tears.”

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), whose kids graduated from and played sports in Northport, said he was in awe, and pointed to the back of the room — the local kids that were in attendance at the press conference — as the “cool” part of the event.

“He’s truly our hometown hero. Mikey’s story is nothing short of amazing. What he has accomplished at his age is unheard of.”

—Chad Lupinacci

“What we do when we go to Albany is we brag,” he said, putting his hands on Brannigan’s shoulders. “We tell everyone how cool our districts are, we tell everyone about the Northport school district, and we’re very proud of where we live and where we represent. There’s nothing, in my opinion, nothing better than dealing with young adults, no matter what they may be doing, because they’re the future.”

Brannigan grinned as he was invited to Albany in January to be recognized by the entire state legislature. State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) also presented him with a proclamation.

“We’re going to bring you up to Albany, but the bad news is, you have to run there and it’s 200 miles,” Flanagan joked.

“That’s a long, cold trip,” Brannigan responded, waiving his arms no.

Flanagan said he was humbled and proud to be in Brannigan’s presence.

“These are the stories people should know about and want to hear about,” he said. “I went from a stage where I used to run, then I jogged and now I walk. On my best day, I couldn’t even come close to the accomplishments of this young man, who really is a role model.”

State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) agreed the barriers Brannigan has broken are unbelievable feats.

Mikey Brannigan smiles as he shakes New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia’s hand during a press conference at Northport High School. Photo from Facebook

“Every day you turn on the television and something bad is happening,” he said. “I want to turn on the television to see this young man. It’s a big responsibility to carry, but in just the few moments I’ve had to talk with him, I know he’s up to the challenge.”

Raia proceeded to tell Brannigan he was going to embarrass him, to which he responded: “Do it.”

The assemblyman pointed out the runner’s red, white and blue Sperry top-siders, and said he needed to find out where he got them.

“He’s such a proud American,” Raia said, to which Brannigan smiled and shook his hand. “We wish nothing but the best. Keep running, my friend.”

Lupinacci shared a similar sentiment during the conference that was broadcasted on Facebook live and viewed by nearly 3,000 people.

“Your family and friends and all of us here today are proud of you,” he said as he gave Brannigan a hug. “Younger generations will follow in your footsteps. You’re not only our hometown hero, you’re an inspiration to all New Yorkers and all Americans. You’re an inspiration to people around the world.”

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Brendan Martin will be taking part in his first New York City Marathon in November. Photo from Brendan Martin

By Dan Aronson

Smithtown native Brendan Martin, 27, is set to make his debut in the New York City Marathon this November.

“It’s one [race] I feel like I have to do before I retire from competitive running,” Martin said. “It’s my hometown race.”

This 26.2 mile-marathon is one the most popular races in the United States. It draws runners and spectators from all over the world, and takes competitors through all five boroughs of New York City. The race was first held in 1970, with only 127 runners competing.

Brendan Martin competes in a previous race. Photo from Brendan Martin
Brendan Martin competes in a previous race. Photo from Brendan Martin

Martin did not find his passion for running until high school — he always thought he would be a big lacrosse player. The Smithtown resident played lacrosse competitively until the end of 10th grade and then decided to put it aside so he could focus on running.

His father Bill Martin said one of the reasons he made the switch from lacrosse to running was his size.

“The only thing that has hampered him, in pretty much anything he has done, is his size,” the father said.

Both of Martin’s parents will be attending the race in November and are very excited to see how he performs.

“I don’t think I can keep my wife away,” Bill Martin said. “[Brendan] has taken things to a whole new level. We are not surprised he has made it this far. He works very hard towards his goals and has done that since high school — he puts together a good plan and executes it.”

Len Carolan, Martin’s coach at Smithtown High School West, had a significant impact on the runner. He has now been retired for eight years, but still keeps in touch with Martin.

“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special” Carolan said. “His love of running and his desire to do well, plus his talent, is what really makes Brendan stand out. He was by far the most talented runner I ever coached.”

Martin led his cross-country team at Smithtown to three consecutive Suffolk County championships from 2003-06. He clearly set his team up well for future years, as without him the Bulls went on to win the title in 2007. The Bulls teams in 2007 and 2008 also won back-to-back divisional championships.

“He was instrumental in getting us to that competitive level,” Carolan said.

And Martin has similar feelings for his old coach.

“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special.”

— Len Carolan

“He gave me a good feeling about running,” Martin said of Carolan. “He made it really fun and team-oriented for us. That made it a blast. He was really good at coaching the fundamentals, working hard, being dedicated and working together with your teammates, and I think that really stuck with me.”

Each athlete prepares himself in a different way, and for Martin, that’s running year-round.

He said he spends eight to nine weeks preparing for the race. In the first five to six weeks, he runs about 120 to 130 miles a week. Once he gets closer to race day, Martin said he tries to run 20 to 22 miles per day, at marathon pace.

“I’m going to make sure I’m doing a lot of hills in my training, because New York is a notoriously difficult course, with lots of ups and downs,” Martin said.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not up to the task.

“I need to study on my own a little bit what to expect, and as long as I do that and I run patiently — very tough at the end — I expect to do pretty well,” he said.

The unique challenge that comes with running in the marathon is that you can’t run the course in preparation, because the only time the roads are closed is for the marathon.

He’s still ready to take on the course, and is looking forward to taking on New York City.

“A hilly race suits my strengths and as long as I run smart, have good confidence in myself,” he said, “[I could] be one of the top Americans and hopefully the top New Yorker.”

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