It was a tough loss, one that might affect most runners for an entire winter. But Northport's Mike Brannigan needed less than a month.
The loss came at the state championships. Brannigan came up three-tenths of a second short in the Class A race, running the Queensbury High School 5k in 15 minutes, 6.6 seconds.
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The junior wasted no time putting the loss behind him. Three weeks later, Brannigan won the New York race at the Nike Cross Regionals in 15:29.9, helping Northport qualify for the Nike Cross National Meet, held in Portland, Ore., last weekend.
Unlike the state race, Brannigan's Regionals victory was never in doubt as he came into view on the final straightaway. The junior won by nearly 11 seconds. Following the victory, Brannigan said he learned an important lesson from the loss in Queensbury, one that helped turn his fortune around.
"Sit back, let the other runners do all the work, and then out-kick them in the last mile," he said.
Brannigan ran a 15:40 at the national meet, good for a top-50 finish in a field that featured the best high school runners in the country.
It was hardly a surprise that Brannigan was so good when the field got deeper and faster in the postseason. After all, he dominated Suffolk on his way toward the regional championship and Newsday's Long Island runner of the year honors.
Brannigan won the Suffolk championship, clocking a 16:12.61 at the Division Championships. He also won the Class A race at the Suffolk state qualifier in 15:58.16.