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He started to run as a way to deal with his autism. He ended up breaking records. And now he's going pro.
Mike Brannigan is the fastest 2-mile high school runner in the country, with a record of 8 minutes, 42 seconds, as reported by WBFF-TV. He was recently named a Sports Illustrated high school athlete of the month. But the running phenom isn't stopping there. The 18-year-old athlete out of New York plans to take his sport to the professional level when he starts training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, for which he'll forgo college.
"He has the opportunity to travel the world," Mike's mother Edie told Yahoo Parenting of his plans to race internationally, which includes qualifying races in Doha and Toronto. "It's an incredible experience for him. Even just graduating high school, which they told me would never happen, is amazing."
Mike's autism, diagnosed when he was 18 months old, has given him the ability to focus and "become the champion runner that he is," his mom said. By age 7, Mike had joined a running, walking and wheelchair racing team, Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program. Then, when he was 12 years old, he ran a 6:12 mile pace to finish 22nd in a field of nearly 5,500 runners at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon 10K in Washington, D.C.
"I have so much pride," Mike's father Kevin told Sports Illustrated in February. "I'm sure every father and parent feels that same way, but to know where he came from, it's so much pride to see him [run]."
And his mom obviously agrees.
"I always correct people when they call Mike 'the autistic runner,'" Edie tells Yahoo Parenting. "Mikey is a great runner, period. He's a great runner who also has autism."
So what's Mike's message for other kids with autism?
"Just do what you love to do," he told WBFF-TV. "You have many talents and you can find them."