Northport High School's Mike Brannigan is a household name in Long Island running circles. The senior is coming off a season in which 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.
But Brannigan's name, face, and story got national exposure when he was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Tuesday night. 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.
The Brannigans were contacted by an NBC producer in early July after Snow saw an article about Brannigan in the June issue of Runners World, Brannigan's mother Edie told Newsday.
"I was cleaning my bathroom and the phone rang," she said. "The caller ID said 'National Broadcasting.' I thought it was a solicitor. It couldn't be the NBC."
But it was and, after rescheduling three times, Snow and her NBC crew met Brannigan at Northport's 8 a..m. cross country practice on Aug. 27 and spent the day interviewing him, his parents, and coach Jason Strom.
"I loved it," Brannigan said. "It was the best time? Snow was awesome?(I liked) seeing myself smiling on TV."
Edie, who made sure her DVR was set for the broadcast, returned home from her job at MJ Beanz in Plainview at 6:45pm, just in time to watch the story live with Mike, her husband Kevin, and Mike's brother, Thomas.
"I thought it was fantastic," she said. "They handled it very respectfully, very gracefully. I was a little disappointed that it was so short (only two minutes, 28 seconds). There was so much more to it and I know they were limited on time?But, I am so grateful that they did this."