Mike Brannigan typically shines when the lights are brightest and, yesterday at the St. Anthony's Invitational, the lights couldn't have been brighter. Not only was the South Huntington school's campus soaked in sunlight, but a documentary crew from "E:60," the ESPN television magazine series, was there to follow the Northport senior.
ESPN is just the latest national media outlet to profile Brannigan, who is autistic. NBC Nightly News ran a feature on him in September, and Sports Illustrated named him High School Athlete of the Month in February.
"It's a great honor," Brannigan said of ESPN's presence.
And, with the cameras focused on him, Brannigan electrified the crowd, winning the 800 meters in 1 minute, 51.87 seconds. That broke the meet record of 1:52.16 set by Great Neck South's Terrance Livingston in 2009, and just missed the Suffolk record of 1:51.4, set by Whitman's Paul Ciurlys in 2000, according to the website suffolkxctf.com
The race featured some of the best competition seen on the track at one time this season. Lynbrook's Luke Germanakos, the two-time New York State indoor 600 meter champion, finished second in 1:52.43. Port Jefferson's James Burke, who won the New York State indoor 1,600 meter championship, and beat Brannigan in the Millrose Games New Balance High School Mile in February, was third in 1:53.41. The top 21 finishers broke 2 minutes.
Brannigan took the race out fast and never relinquished the lead. He broke away from Burke with approximately 250 meters left and had to battle Germanakos on the final straightaway.
"I told myself to keep going straight and not give up," Brannigan said. " . . . This is a middle distance race and you need a lot of strength, speed, and courage to do it."
Huntington's Infinite Tucker won the 110 hurdles in 14.85 seconds and the 400 in 48.95. Tucker had to make up for a slow start in the hurdles.
"I had to play catch up," he said. "I finally caught (Farmingdale's Michael Outing) at the end. It was adrenaline that made me kick . . . My form was better in the second half of the race. The first couple hurdles I was just going, then I snapped my leg down the rest of the race.''
Outing finished second in the 110 hurdles in 14.99.
Ward Melville's John Ripa chased down St. Anthony's Pat Tucker on the final straightaway to win the 1,600 in 4:19.52. Tucker finished in 4:21.42. Tucker and East Meadow's Michael Grady battled neck and neck for the majority of the race before Grady dropped out with approximately 250 meters remaining. East Meadow would not comment on the reason for Grady's dropout.
"I saw Grady drop out and was a little confused," Ripa said. "Then, with 150 meters left, I went into another gear. I didn't expect Tucker to come back (to me) like that. But, he did."
Chaminade's Reggie Verrier won the triple jump, going 46 feet, 91/4 inches. MacArthur's Steven Fleming won the pole vault, clearing 11-6.