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After a two year fight, Down Syndrome athlete wins right to play senior season


After more than two years of campaigning, a high-schooler with Down Syndrome will be able to play football his senior year. His family fought to create an age waiver for athletes with disabilities.  

Eric Dompierre of Ishpeming has played with his team the last three years. He's a kicker, practices twice a day, and even asked for a Bowflex for Christmas to keep training.  But now he's 19, past the state age-limit for high school athletics.

His family petitioned Lansing and online to get the athletic association to allow exceptions, when players have been held back a year by their disabilities. Dean Dompierre is Eric's dad.  "I have to sit back and think, did this really happen? Because it's been a long two and a half plus years, and there's been a lot of moments along the way when we certainly didn't expect this to happen. So really this seems like a miracle to us that Eric has gotten his chance."

Dompierre says they are 26 states that still don’t have similar waivers. "We knew there were other kids in Michigan who were in the same shoes as Eric. Not a lot, but once it took off in the media and I saw how many people were behind us, and we heard from so many people who have relatives who are in the same shoes as Eric, then I began to realize how big of a thing this was. Not just here in Michigan, but across the country."

Michigan players can now apply for an age waiver if they were held back before high school due to a physical and mental disability. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.