DETROIT (CN) – Michigan’s governing body for high school athletics cannot rescind students’ eligibility for competing in a Nike-sponsored cross country event, several students claim in court.
Seven high school girls who formed a running club while also playing high school sports say their participation in the Dec. 5 Nike Cross Nationals event does not disqualify them from state-sanctioned events. Their parents sued the Michigan High School Athletic Association, or MHSAA, on Friday in Wayne County, Mich.
MHSAA, the only defendant in the complaint, held that the Nike Cross Nationals “falls under the auspices of a national high school championship” and therefore makes the girls ineligible for MHSAA events for up to one year, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint says MHSAA regulations define a championship as “any athletic event, regardless of title, which attempts to draw to it or its qualifying rounds only the top place winner or winners from more than one state high school association championship meet.” (Emphasis in original.)
The girls’ parents claim that, because “participants in the Nike Cross Nationals event are selected through a series of open to the public regional qualifying events that are not tied to MHSAA regular season or post season … tournament performances,” the event does not qualify as a championship. (Emphasis in original.)
The parents also say that an MHSAA administrator “explicitly determined that participation in the Nike Cross Country events would not impact the eligibility of student athletes.”
The complaint cites an Oct. 26 email from the MHSAA that allegedly said, “The Nike Cross Nationals Midwest club race will be open to Michigan teams and individuals this year, as it was last year. I hope that helps. Best of luck.”
While the girls and their families are scheduled to have a hearing before the MHSAA on Dec. 3, registration for the Nike race closes on Nov. 25. They seek an immediate judgment declaring them eligible for participation in MHSAA-sanctioned sports.
The plaintiffs include Alexandra and Ana Barrott, Cayla Eckenroth, Olivia Harp, Hailey Harris, Emma Herrman and Rachel Zimmer, all of whom are represented by their parents.
The girls and their parents are represented by Robert Hoard of Sullivan, Ward, Asher & Patton in Southfield, Mich.
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