By Michael Martinez and Kelly Andersen
The Michigan High School Athletic Association on Thursday approved a waiver provision that gives a student athlete with Down syndrome a chance to continue participating in sports despite being 19 years old.
Under the new provision, Eric Dompierre, who will be a senior in the fall, could be approved to play as early as August if the Ishpeming School District formally seeks a waiver for him, said John Johnson, spokesman for the athletic association.
Eric's father, Dean Dompierre, told CNN that he hopes other states will follow Michigan's lead in offering an exception to sports age limits for students with disabilities.
"I feel relieved," Dean Dompierre told CNN in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. "It's been two and a half years. We've been petitioning and working with the association."
He said he's looking forward to "just watching Eric run down onto the field in the first football game this fall. If he can contribute to the team, even better. The same goes for basketball season."
"The hardest part has been the stress of not knowing whether or not it's going to be Eric's last season," he added.
He said he is "almost positive" that his son will be granted a waiver in August.
Eric Dompierre's underdog quest to keep playing sports in Michigan's Upper Peninsula garnered widespread attention because he has shown flashes of athletic prowess despite his Down syndrome, such as when he hit a three-point shot in the basketball playoffs to help his team maintain a comfortable lead.