LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan High School Athletic Association has announced its changes for the 2022-23 season, including adding more events for students with disabilities.

The MHSAA Representative Council met over the weekend in East Lansing. Among the changes that were approved were expanding paralympic events in swimming and adding them to track and field.

Andi Osters, the MHSAA assistant director who oversees swimming and diving, called it a move in the name of inclusion.

“I think that the trend in the last five, 10 years has been one that’s more inclusive for our non-able-bodied athletes. I think that that certainly is a part of it,” Osters told News 8. “The other piece of this is that in Michigan, we really want as an association to gauge what sort of athlete would be interested in these opportunities and how many of them are there.”

MHSAA started offering a 50-yard freestyle race for paralympic athletes in 2020. Starting next year, it will also add a 100-yard freestyle event. So far, about a dozen athletes have taken part.

“That’s not a huge percentage of the population that we serve, but I think that that’s certainly something that we’re looking at in the future,” Osters said. “These individuals typically are already members of their school swim team. And so they’re really looking for an opportunity to travel with and have an experience at our culminating event, which is the state finals. And this opportunity allows them to showcase their abilities in front of a big audience, big stage and also participate at a finals event with their teammates.”

Among those athletes is Rockford’s Liam Smith, who graduated in 2021. Smith is a member of Team USA’s paralympic swimming team. He has competed in several international events and holds the American record in his sport class for the 200-meter breaststroke.

Starting this spring, track and field events will also include 100-, 200- and 400-meter races for wheelchair participants, along with shot put. There will not be a qualifying time or distance for those events. Instead, any wheelchair racers that participate in at least two team events during the season will qualify for the state championships.

OTHER APPROVED CHANGES

The MHSAA is expanding the boys and girls basketball seasons to better align with other states in the Midwest. Starting next winter, teams can play up to 22 regular-season games, up from 20. It will also reduce the mandatory preseason schedule from 21 days to 14.

The Council also approved proposals to allow the first round of the baseball and softball postseason tournaments to start the week before Memorial Day. According to the MHSAA’s website, that’s expected to alleviate pitch count concerns and ease scheduling conflicts with track and field teams.

Hockey will also see a change. The council has voted to increase the enrollment cap for schools to enter a cooperative. Right now, about half of all Michigan high school hockey teams are made up of students from multiple schools. Previously, schools with more than 3,500 students weren’t allowed to partner with other schools. Now, that mark has been set at 5,500 students. Any school looking to join a cooperative still must apply and get approval from the MHSAA Executive Committee.