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Swimsuit controversy: Alaskan swimmer who was disqualified for ‘curvier’ figure gets win reinstated

The high school swimmer who was disqualified over a controversial “uniform violation” has had her victory reinstated, following accusations that she had been discriminated against.

Breckynn Willis, a state champion swimmer for Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska, was disqualified during an event last Friday after an official determined that her swimsuit was too revealing.

Willis’s story immediately sparked outrage in the community, including from Lauren Langford, a local swim coach who called the incident an “inexcusable” case of sexism, racism and body shaming.

“All of these girls are all wearing suits that are cut the same way,” Langford said in a now-viral blog post written after the meet. “And the only girl who gets disqualified is a mixed-race girl with rounder, curvier features.”

But now Willis is getting her victory back. In a decision announced by the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) on Tuesday, officials determined that the 17-year-old would have the points from her win reinstated.

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The decision came just hours after the Anchorage School District announced its own investigation into the issue, which also declared Willis had been treated wrongfully.

“Our swimmer was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body,” the district’s investigation stated.

Willis’ disqualification sparked controversy as soon as it happened. One referee attending the meet said she froze in disbelief when the official made their decision, immediately telling them “this is going to blow up.”

Langford, who coached Willis and her sisters when they were younger, said she’s never seen a swimmer intentionally adjust their suit to make it more revealing, adding that she believed the high schooler was being unfairly targeted.

“It comes down in my opinion to the race thing,” Langford told the Anchorage Daily News. “It was so targeted. It was so intentional and so individual. She’s one of three girls on who look like her.”

Langford was also quick to note that Willis was wearing suit assigned by her team and that none of her other teammates were disqualified.

In its ruling on the issue, the ASAA issued a reminder to referees that it should not assume swimmers are modifying their outfits on purpose.

“ASAA believes students are not intentionally rolling up their swimsuits in this manner,” the ruling said, adding that officials are asked to “assume school uniforms are legal and will remain so.”

High school swimmer disqualified over fit of school-issued swimsuit

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – A disqualification of a state championship swimmer during a high school swim meet in Anchorage Friday has turned into a tense dispute over the fit of athletes’ swimsuits.

Athletes Breckynn Willis and Dreamer Kowatch, sisters, pose with their athletic trainer, Dewayne Ingram.

This, after one of Dimond’s competitive racers suddenly found herself disqualified from the heat she’d already won, sidelined by a referee who’d deemed the teen’s team-issued uniform to be in violation of the rules.

“If we find that this was an error in judgment by an official, we are going to definitely ensure that there are steps in place so that it doesn’t happen again,” said Kersten Johnson-Struempler, Senior Director of Secondary Education for the Anchorage School District.

Struempler would not give a timeline for the district’s investigation but said it had begun over the weekend after an article critical of the disqualification call became widely circulated.

Lauren Langford, a lifelong swimmer, Director of YMCA Aquatics, and coach for West High School’s swim team published an account of the incident on Medium.com over the weekend.

West High School coach Lauren Langford first publicized the story in a blog post and thinks the girls are being held to a double standard.

“The perception is that a victory was stolen unnecessarily,” Langford said.

Langford believes the student-athlete, 17-year-old Breckynn Willis, is being punished for her athletic physique – a combination of genetics and years of training to gain strength and speed.

“The rest of her team was wearing the same uniform, and she was the only one disqualified,” Langford said. “It is my opinion that she has been targeted and singled out over the course of the last year.”

During the 2018-19 school year, Willis’ younger sister, Dreamer Kowatch, who is also a competitive swimmer, had a run-in with the same referee. The ref openly critiqued her suit’s fit during a meet.

The girls’ mother, Meagan Kowatch, told KTUU Monday that her fast-swimming daughters should be gaining attention for their performance and skill, not the fit of their swimsuits.

In August, the National Federation of State High School Associations notified coaches across the nation about a rule change that allows for the disqualification of an athlete if a uniform is not within guidelines, and a change of attire would delay the race.

A NHFS illustration of what parts of the body should be covered by the swimsuits.

Breckynn’s disqualification came after she’d won, and before she’d go on to compete with her team in a relay event in the same swimsuit that same night. The Dimond girls won that match with no penalties.

The Alaska School Activities Association published the NHFS letter and accompanying resources on its website, including an illustrated graphic showing appropriate and inappropriate suit coverage for male and female athletes, under what’s known as the “modesty rule.”

The national organization sets the rules, and then local sporting associations have some flexibility to determine implementation according to community standards.

“There is a growing trend in high school swimming and diving of athletes wearing training and competitive suits in a manner that contradicts with the intention of their original design and manufacture,” NFHS Executive Director Karissa Niehoff wrote in a memo dated August 7. “Specifically, suits are being worn in such a way as to expose the athlete’s buttocks. This issue is not gender-specific and is occurring in various states across the country.”

The guidelines state suits must “be worn in the appropriate size as dictated by that manufacturer’s specifications for the athlete’s body type and shall remain unaltered. Boys shall wear suits which cover the buttocks, and girls shall wear suits which cover the buttocks and breasts.”

“Before these suits even get on an athlete’s body, the cut of them isn’t in compliance with the modesty rule,” Langford said, demonstrating the angle v-shape on the backside of women’s competitive suits sold by most manufacturers.

On Monday, the Anchorage School District confirmed the suit Willis was wearing was an approved suit considered to be in compliance with the rules, and that it had been used without incident at three prior meets this season.

Meagan Kowatch said the disqualification did not come until the main referee in charge Friday night had to leave halfway through the meet, putting a different referee in charge for the remainder of the evening.

The first thing that the referee did, according to Breckynn, was disqualify Willis. She also happened to be the same referee who had embarrassed the younger sibling last year, she said.

Calls and emails to the referee who made the disqualification were not returned.

“We would encourage officials to give the benefit of the doubt to the athlete,” Alaska School Athletic Association Executive Director Billy Strickland said in a phone interview Monday, though he admitted determining whether a suit is being worn in compliance with the rules is subjective.

Breckynn Willis’ coach DeWayne Ingram says that Willis’ determination and hard work over the years has built her success.

“What we’re attempting to do is try to define the parameters of the problem that quite frankly has been brought to us by adults who are uncomfortable being on deck with young men and young ladies who are not appropriately covered,” Sandy Searcy, Director of Sports for the National Federation of State High School Associations, told KTUU from her Indiana office.

The goal is not to have officials focus on the backsides of male or female swimmers, but provide guidance for compliance, Searcy said.

Still, Langford said she believes the renewed emphasis on modesty is well-intended but has gotten out of hand, especially when the rule itself is vague.

“It does not state that that coverage of the buttocks needs to be full coverage,” Langford said. “That’s something that we have gotten carried away with. If we are going to police this rule and if it’s not a thong or a g-string, then it is in compliance.”

Kowatch wants her daughter’s disqualification overturned, her victory restored, and the referee they’ve had conflicts with to stay away from officiating her girls’ races.

“We’re really concerned about the allegations that were brought forward, Johnson-Struempler said, “but I think that we still have to complete our investigation before we can really land on one side or the other of the issue. She added that female athletes “shouldn’t be judged by their body when they are out there as an athlete, they should be judged on the merit of their play.”

Breckynn Willis and her sister Dreamer Kowatch (Photo courtesy of Meagan Kowatch)

Dimond High School swimmer disqualified over her swimsuit to appear on the “Kelly Clarkson Show”

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – The Dimond High School swimmer who was disqualified because of the fit of her swimsuit is about to speak out on a national talk show.

Breckynn Willis in 2018

Breckynn Willis will be on Friday’s edition of the “Kelly Clarkson Show”, seen here on Channel 2.

During the interview, Willis describes the moment she learned she had been disqualified from a first-place finish.

The disqualification has since been overturned and Willis’ win reinstated after the Anchorage School District said it concluded the disqualification was “heavy-handed and unnecessary,” and that Willis “was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body.”

As per protocol, the notification provides 30 days’ notice to general membership so that the board can officially evaluate the rule.

ASAA Executive Director Billy Strickland said that in the coming days, he will also be determining whether or not Jill Blackstone, the official who enforced the rule, will maintain her certification.

The next ASAA board meeting will take place on Dec. 9 and 10.

You can watch the entire interview Friday afternoon at 3:00 here on Channel 2.

Twitter Breckynn Willis

Breckynn Willis, 17, is an Alaska high school swimmer who was disqualified during a swim meet over the fit of her swimsuit. Willis, one of the fastest swimmers in the state, was at a September 6 competition when her team-issued bathing suit rode up her backside during the race and exposed her buttocks.

On September 10, the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) reversed the referee’s decision and reinstated Willis’ win. The reinstatement came within an hour after receiving a letter from the Anchorage School District (ASD) requesting that Willis’ win be upheld. The reversal also resulted in the Dimond High School regaining points lost by Willis’ disqualification.

“This is as good or better as I could have hoped for,” West High School swim coach Lauren Langford told KTUU. Although she’s not Willis’ coach, Langford Willis’ story to the nation’s attention after writing a blog post about the incident. “What has been carried out on pool decks in Alaska over the last year is nothing short of racism, sexism, body-shaming, and child abuse,” she wrote.

Here’s what you need to know about Breckynn Willis.

1. The Referee Said Breckynn Willis’ Suit ‘Was so Far up I Could See Butt Cheek Touching Butt Cheek’

Athlete’s bathing suit controversy called racist, sexistAlaskan Breckynn Willis is in the middle of a controversy over her school-issued bathing suit. Willis was disqualified after a referee said her bathing suit breached a ‘modesty policy’. School officials insist the issue will be investigated. However, other coaches in the area say Willis and her sister, both biracial, have been targeted because of their race. Families of other swimmers also have blamed the girl’s mother for not doing more to fix the problem. RT America’s Regina Ham joins Scottie Nell Hughes to discuss. #QuestionMore #RTAmerica Find RT America in your area: http://rt.com/where-to-watch/ Or watch us online: http://rt.com/on-air/rt-america-air/ Like us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTAmerica Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/RT_America 2019-09-10T21:30:00.000Z

The incident happened while the Dimond High School student-athlete was competing at a meet against Chugiak High School in Anchorage. Halfway through the event, the main referee had to leave and referee Jill Blackstone took over.

After winning the 200 Individual Medley, the event’s second race, Blackstone disqualified Breckynn as she was gearing up for two more races. Blackstone said the high school senior had committed a “uniform violation,” and stripped the teen of her win.

Anita Rohde served as a meet official during the competition and said she was in “disbelief” by the disqualification. After the event, she asked Blackstone for an explanation. Blackstone responded by saying the back of Willis’ swimsuit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.”

“We have a term for it – it’s called a ‘suit wedgie,’ and if you’ve ever been a swimmer, you’ve had one,” Langford explained to the Anchorage Daily News.

2. A National Set of Guidelines Stated Swimmers Could Be Disqualified after a Race for Swimsuit Violations

Screengrab via KTUU

The National Federation of State High School Associations has a list of swimsuit regulations which include a “modesty rule.” The rule requires a male’s swimsuit to cover the buttocks while a female’s swimsuit must cover the breasts and buttocks. Last August, the Federation notified coaches across the country about a rule change that allowed them to disqualify an athlete if a uniform was not within guidelines and if a change of attire would delay the race.

“When observed after the heat/dive officially begins, disqualify the competitor at the completion of the heat/dive; nullify the competitor’s performance time/score and he/she shall not be eligible for further competition until in a legal suit,” the Federation’s rules state.

The School District has asked that the rule been suspended until revised, stating that it “is ambiguous and allows the potential for bias to influence officials’ decisions.”

3. The School District Believes the Referee Also Targeted Breckynn Willis’ Sister & Has Asked That the Official Be Decertified

Facebook/Alaska Swimming News & InformationWillis pictured with teammate Max Addington in April 2016.

Blackstone was no stranger to Willis or her family. Dreamer Kowatch, Willis’ younger sister and also a competitive swimmer, was publicly criticized by Blackstone about the fit of her swimsuit during the 2018-19 school year.

Langford said that Dreamer has told friends and family she feels as though the community disapproves because her “specific body is not appropriate for competitive swimming.”

The School District has asked that Blackstone be decertified as an official, NBC 12 reported. The ASAA’s executive director Billy Strickland said the School District “believes Blackstone has targeted Willis and her sister, a fellow teammate, in a pattern of unfair enforcement over the past year.”

4. A Parent Secretly Photographed Willis & Circulated Photos ‘As Evidence That Her Attire Is Immoral’

Facebook/Dimond High SchoolWillis pictured in February 2018.

Langford revealed that last year, a “rogue” team member’s parent took photos of Breckynn’s backside in a swimsuit “without her knowledge or consent,” and circulated the images online “as evidence that her attire is immoral.”

“She is a minor – that parent should be arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography,” Langford wrote. She went on to write that parents have been overheard saying that “for the sake of their sons, the mother of these young ladies should cover up her daughters.”

Rather than focusing on swimming, Langford believes that “girls of all shapes, sizes, and races are worrying about their suits like never before,” and shared that one girl who didn’t have the traditional swimmer physique told Langford she was going on a restrictive diet and would spend more time at the gym to slim down her backside to better comply with the “modesty rule.”

5. Langford Believes Willis Was Targeted ‘for the Way the Suit Fit Her Curvier, Fuller-Figured Body’

Wikipedia

On September 7, Langford wrote “Alaska’s Swimsuit Scandal Unfairly Policies Young Girls’ Bodies.” Langford pointed out that Willis was wearing a regulation that matched the style worn by her teammates. She went on to say that Willis was targeted “for the way the suit fit her curvier, fuller-figured body.”

According to Langford, she’s seen tensions rise over swimsuit fit issues for the past year. “It has caused my own athletes to be needlessly self-conscious about the appearance of their bodies, which preoccupies them just as much, if not more, than the quality of their performances. Langford went on to say that it’s the girls’ bodies being policed rather than the uniforms.

Using diagrams, Langford showed how regulation uniforms don’t comply with the modesty standards set by the national federation. “Notice the high-cut backs to these suits – they’re not technically in compliance even before they get on the body of a swimmer, yet many high schools use these brands as their team suits.” After showing that the suits worn by all the swimmers didn’t meet the national federation’s standards she asked why only one swimmer had been disqualified.

These young swimmers aren’t being punished for wearing their suits in scandalous or provocative ways, but rather, because their ample hips, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin, and mostly pallid teammates.”

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2018-2019 Season:

  • September 10, 2018—Dimond High School (DHS) Administration received the first communication from a parent indicating that her daughters had been targeted at a DHS swim team parent meeting regarding the coverage for her daughter’s swimsuit.
  • September 15, 2018—A DHS assistant principal (AP) worked with the parent to address her concerns. The AP directed the DHS swim coach to attend all parent meetings regarding the school’s swim team.
  • The school principal and the assistant principal spoke to other parents present at the September 10 meeting, asking them to stay positive and not target others in the future, to include photographing students to what they perceived as inappropriateness of attire.
  • The assistant principal met with a team parent that had taken pictures of others’ children on the swim deck and sent them to others to display the “inappropriate” attire of some of the swimmers on the team. The assistant principal indicated to the parent who took the photographs that it was not permissible for him to take pictures of others’ children and that he should stop immediately.
  • September 30, 2018—The school principal received a message from the parent in which the parent thanked her for taking the problem seriously and addressing her concerns.
  • October 1, 2018—The assistant principal reviewed uniform rules with both coaches and referees before the next DHS meet to ensure there was a level playing field for the swimmers that day and to ensure a positive environment at the swim meet.
  • The assistant principal continued to attend every swim meet at DHS and at away sites for the rest of the season. He met with officials before each meet began to ensure swimsuits met the rules stated in the officials’ handbook.
  • The 2018 season ended successfully after these issues were addressed, with no continued comments or concerns reported to DHS Administration.
  • May 6, 2019—The assistant principal asked the DHS swim coach to order new swimsuits for every member of the DHS team for the upcoming season. The purpose of this effort was to ensure each member of the team competed in a designated swim uniform. The suits ordered met the rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which governs local Alaska high school sports.

2019-2020 Season:

  • Annually, the NFHS releases the new rule book for each sport with points of emphasis. One of those points for this year addressed swim uniform coverage. Consequently, the Alaska School Activities Association provided a focus to its Alaska schools participating in swimming and diving as well with guidance from NFHS.
  • On August 6, 2019, a pre-season swim coach meeting was hosted by Bartlett High School. Except for the West and Service high coaches, all swim coaches were present for the meeting. At the coaches’ meeting, uniform rules were reviewed as some language had changed during the off-season. It was agreed at the pre-season meeting that if there were any issues regarding athlete uniforms, coaches would be approached first by officials to resolve the problem before an athlete was disqualified.
  • The 2019 swim season commenced without incident and three meets took place for the DHS swim team with no issues.
  • September 6, 2019—Chugiak and Dimond competed for the fourth meet of the season. The events from that meet occurred in the following order:
    • The student swam three of four races without disqualification.
      • First race: 200 IM – Student won the race
      • Second Race: 100 Freestyle – Student won the race but was disqualified (DQ).
      • Third Race: 200 Freestyle Relay – Team finished 2nd – No DQ.
      • Fourth Race: 400 Free Relay – Team finished first. – No DQ
    • There was a change of officials part-way through the meet because the initial official had to depart early and had pre-coordinated with a different official to take over as the new meet referee. Upon assuming the duty, the second official disqualified the DHS swimmer for her uniform.
    • The DHS coach approached the official and inquired why the athlete was disqualified. In their exchange, the official stated she did not have time to address the coach because it would have delayed the entire meet (NFHS rules state the official is to approach the coach, not the athlete, for a disqualification. Also in the rules, the official has the ability to disqualify an athlete if he or she feels there may be a delay.)
    • The coach acknowledged that the official approached him to inform him of the disqualification and did not speak with the athlete directly.
    • The DHS coach filed a formal protest based on the official not following the correct procedure for a uniform disqualification. The athlete remained disqualified despite the coach’s protest.
    • The student’s parent emailed the principal and assistant principal to let them know of her daughter’s disqualification and her concerns.
    • The DHS coach will appeal the disqualification.

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Victory for Breckynn Willis, as ASAA reinstates her win

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Alaska School Activities Association reversed the disqualification of a Dimond High School swimmer who had won her race. A referee disqualified her over a swimsuit violation, alleging the suit’s fit was against the sport’s so-called modesty rules.

Breckynn Willis and her sister, Dreamer Kowatch (Photo courtesy of Dewayne Ingram)

The move came less than an hour after the Anchorage School District announced its formal appeal on behalf of senior Breckynn Willis and her team. Through a prepared statement, ASD said it had concluded the disqualification was “heavy-handed and unnecessary” and that “our swimmer was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body.”

ASD also seeks decertification of swimming official Jill Blackstone. ASAA Executive Director said the district believes Blackstone has targeted Willis and her sister, a fellow teammate, in a pattern unfair enforcement over the past year.

Willis’ disqualification over a swimsuit issue is a first for Alaska, and the result, governing officials have said, of a nationwide attempt to curtail the intentional mis-wearing of suits, something that has not been an issue here, Strickland said.

ASAA would not make a determination on whether the enforcement of the modesty rules was improperly focused on the sisters. Instead, overturning the decision is allowable because the official did not notify the coach about a problem prior to Willis’ race.

ASAA says that all team and individual points will be restored.

“ASAA has determined, the disqualification was the result of the misapplication of the rule and as a result is being overturned,” the association wrote in a statement.

ASAA also said that after consulting with the National Federation of State High School Associations, it sent out a letter to all swim and dive officials reminding them that rules require that they must consider whether a swimmer is intentionally rolling up their swimsuit in order to expose their buttock before they issue any disqualifications.

It also reminded officials that they must notify an athlete’s coach before the heat if they observe inappropriate attire.

The case attracted national attention after a high school coach posted about it on Medium.com.

In addition to reversing the disqualification, the Anchorage School District said it will seek to “suspend, with the intent to revise” the rule from the National Federation of High School Sports that defines appropriate swimwear.

Sandy Searcy, director of Sports for NFHS, told KTUU Tuesday the intent of the rule was never meant to berate athletes. She called challenges over-regulating how suits are worn and fit “a national cross-sport issue.”

Breckyn Willis is a high school student with aspirations for swimming, currently participating in the official team of her high school in Alaska.

The Dimond High School student had recently competed in multiple events at a swim competition, and while her performance was described as great, organizers took the controversial decision to disqualify her instead.

The officially stated reason was that the teen’s swimsuit did not fit properly. One of the race officials pointed out that her swimsuit has shifted its position, and she was revealing too much of her backside, a “wedgie” of some sort.

This apparently violated a rule of the event and led to the Willis’ disqualification.

The school district has issued a public statement regarding the situation, explaining that they were looking into suspending the rule.

At the same time, they did not want to name the official who had made the controversial call. Local media pointed to referee Jill Blackstone who seems to have issues with the entire family.

Blackstone made a target of Dreamer Kowatch, Willis’ younger sister who is also a competitive swimmer.

Blackstone publicly criticized Kowatch about her body and the fit of her swimsuit during the 2018-19 school year.

Kowatch has confessed to many friends and family members that the community has a problem with her “specific body, and they see it as not appropriate for competitive swimming.”

The school district has requested that Blackstone be decertified as an official. In any case, the disqualification has been officially dropped by the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA), and the young lady can resume her activities at this point.

West High School swim coach Lauren Langford defended the sisters and slammed officials by saying: “This is as good or better as I could have hoped for. What has been carried out on pool decks in Alaska over the last year is nothing short of racism, sexism, body-shaming, and child abuse.”

Langford also bashed a “rogue” team member’s parent who took photos of Willis’s butt in a swimsuit “without her knowledge or consent,” and plastered it on the Internet to make the point that “her attire is immoral.”

Many have described the situation as a severe overreaction by the race officials, and others have pointed out that this was a clear example of someone abusing their position of authority.

A few claimed not only was it was sexist but racist because Willis is biracial.

School officials have been trying to fight the situation and have made various attempts to engage their critics, but so far it seems that they have mostly been getting backlash as a result of the situation.

Many people, not just from the region but from across the whole country, have condemned their actions and have been calling for a deeper investigation.

A TOP young swimmer has been disqualified – after her swimsuit gave her a massive wedgie and showed off her bum.

A poolside referee ruled that Breckynn Willis, 17, was revealing too much of her backside after she won the 100m freestyle in a school contest.

4 Teen swimmer Breckynn Willis was disqualified when she suffered a wedgieCredit: Instagram @alaska_peak_performance

Willis was reportedly ‘heartbroken’ when she was told of her disqualification as she climbed out of the pool.

Media in Anchorage, Alaska, US, claim the referee said the girl’s swimsuit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’

Some other coaches even said the teen intentionally hiked up her swimsuit to make it more revealing.

The fact that she’s been told she’s intentionally trying to draw this sexual attention has really crushed her

Lauren Langford

But swimming coach Lauren Langford said “We have a term for it — it’s called a suit wedgie, and wedgies happen.

“It’s uncomfortable. No one’s going to walk around that way intentionally.”

Officials have now been accused of racism and sexism, as Willis is the only mixed-race girl on the team – and was the only swimmer to be disqualified.

4 Teen swimmer Breckynn Willis, right, with her sister Dreamer KowatchCredit: Instagram @alaska_peak_performance 4 Teen swimmer Breckynn Willis is said to be ‘heartbroken’ by the controversyCredit: Instagram @alaska_peak_performance

Langford said: “All the girls are wearing suits that are cut the same way.

“And the only girl who gets disqualified is a mixed-race girl with rounder, curvier features.”

School bosses have since confirmed that Willis was wearing an approved official swimsuit — the same one all her teammates wore.

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She had also worn it in two previous races earlier in the meet and was not sanctioned in any way.

The swimmer also returned to the pool in the same swimsuit after her disqualification to swim in a team relay and received no penalty.

4 The Alaska schools board has rules about swimsuitsCredit: National Federation of State High School Associations

Langford said Willis was “heartbroken” after the event on Friday night to think people believed she deliberately hiked up the sides of her swimsuit.

“The fact that she’s been told she’s intentionally trying to draw this sexual attention has really crushed her,” Langford said.

Willis’ mother Meagan Kowatch has told media in Alaska that the same judge also criticised her other daughter and Breckynn’s younger sister Dreamer for also revealing too much of her buttocks at an earlier swim meet.

The disqualification was later overturned by the Alaska School Activities Association, the governing body of Alaska high school sports.

The school district, in a written statement, said the decision to single out the girl for a uniform violation was “based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body.”

“We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape,” the district said.

A ‘curvier’ high school swimmer won — only to be disqualified because of a ‘suit wedgie’

Anchorage’s Dimond High School. (Google Maps) By Antonia Noori FarzanAntonia Noori Farzan Reporter for the Morning Mix September 11, 2019

The teenage girl clambered out of the pool, ready to accept victory. A champion swimmer for Anchorage’s Dimond High School, she had crushed her competition in the 100-yard freestyle during Friday night’s meet with a rival from across town.

But as soon as she stepped out of the water, she learned that she had been disqualified.

The reason? Her swimsuit was exposing too much of her buttocks, an official ruled.

The referee’s call, which is now being appealed by the Anchorage School District, has generated intense debate among Alaska’s close-knit swim and dive community, and prompted a larger discussion about how female athletes’ bodies are policed and scrutinized. Lauren Langford, who coaches swimming at another high school in the area, told The Washington Post that she believes racism, in addition to sexism, may have been a factor, given that the teen is among the few nonwhite athletes in a predominantly white sport.

“All of these girls are all wearing suits that are cut the same way,” Langford said. “And the only girl who gets disqualified is a mixed-race girl with rounder, curvier features.”

The teenager didn’t pick out the swimsuit — her school chose it and issued it to her. But even though all the girls on her team were dressed identically, she was the only one cited for a uniform violation. Annette Rohde, who was working as an official during the meet, told the Anchorage Daily News that another female ref explained that the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’

Rohde froze in disbelief, she said, and warned the referee, who has not been identified, “This is going to blow up.” Sure enough, the decision reverberated throughout the community, where the teen is known as a top-ranked swimmer likely to go on to compete at the collegiate level.

“In a world where young girls are told at every turn that the skin they’re in is not good enough for a thousand reasons, the last thing we need to do in youth athletics is add to that unhealthy dialogue,” Langford, a swim coach at Anchorage’s West High School who coached the teenager and her sisters when they were younger, wrote in a widely shared blog post on Medium after Friday’s meet. She added, “If you do not like the way that swimsuits fit on these girls’ bodies then don’t look; they are minors, children, and no one should be looking at them anyway.”

Speaking with The Post on Monday night, Langford said she was angered at the treatment of the teenager, whom she described as “literally the nicest young lady.” It wasn’t the first time the girl had been made to feel that her curvy figure was problematic: Last year, a parent took a photo of her backside and shared it with other parents to demonstrate that girls on the team were wearing inappropriate swimwear. (District officials said Monday that Dimond High School’s assistant principal “indicated to the parent who took the photographs that it was not permissible for him to take pictures of others’ children and that he should stop immediately.”)

“That to me is so inappropriate,” Langford said. She noted that the teen girl has been accused of hiking her suit up on purpose, but anyone who has competed in swimming would know that suits often ride up unintentionally.

“We have a term for it — it’s called a suit wedgie,” she said. “And wedgies happen. It’s uncomfortable. No one’s going to walk around that way intentionally.”

Over the years, the conservative one-piece swimsuits traditionally worn by competitive female swimmers have been phased out in favor of a higher-cut style that has less fabric and is more hydrodynamic, but also more revealing. The changes in the cut and fit, Langford said, make it “even more frequent that you’re picking a wedgie.” But a minor, if annoying, wardrobe malfunction is also likely to be the last thing on the mind of a swimmer intently focused on her form as she nears the finish line.

“If you’re in the water, you’re not thinking about it,” Langford said.

On Tuesday, Anchorage School District officials announced that they had reviewed the incident and concluded that the teenager “was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body,” and that the referee’s decision was “heavy-handed and unnecessary.” The district has appealed to the Alaska School Activities Association, asking to reverse the swimmer’s disqualification, return all points to her team, and revoke certification for the referee who made the call. The district is also seeking to suspend and eventually revise the guidelines in place for appropriate swimsuit coverage, which officials said were ambiguous and left room for biased interpretation.

The National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body for high school athletics in Alaska, simply states that female swimmers must cover their buttocks and breasts. In August, the organization issued a memorandum alerting coaches that “suits are being worn in such a way as to expose the athlete’s buttocks,” and provided an illustrated example of what constituted appropriate coverage. District officials said Monday that Dimond High School “made deliberate efforts over the last year” to meet those requirements — in particular, picking out the regulation swimsuit that the teen was wearing when she was stripped of her victory.

“If the suit was a problem, they all should have been disqualified,” Langford said. “But they weren’t.”

Meagan Kowatch, the teenager’s mother, told KTUU on Monday that the referee who made the call had previously embarrassed one of her other daughters by critiquing the fit of her swimsuit during a meet. She wants to see the results of Friday’s competition overturned, and for that ref to be kept away from her daughters’ races in future, she said.

Though there’s also been some debate about whether racism played a role in the decision, “no one seems to be arguing about if it’s sexism,” Langford said. The National Federation of High Schools also published guidelines for appropriate male swimwear in August, and she said she’s seen young men competing in lower-riding suits than the organization deems appropriate. But to her knowledge, it’s never become an issue.

By contrast, Langford said, Kowatch has been told by other parents that her three daughters on the team, who are all talented swimmers, need to cover up for the sake of their sons. The disqualified teenager, though usually “tough as nails,” turned teary on Friday night over the referee’s decision, and was “heartbroken” to learn that people were accusing her of purposefully hiking up her swimsuit, the coach said.

“The fact that she’s been told she’s intentionally trying to draw this sexual attention has really crushed her,” Langford said.

This story has been updated.

Screenshot: KTUU

A talented 17-year-old swimmer at Anchorage’s Dimond High School in Alaska was disqualified after winning the 100m freestyle event on Friday night because the referee overseeing the swim meet said she had violated “uniform regulations.” The teen’s one-piece swimsuit had reportedly bunched up and was showing her “intergluteal cleft,” according to a report from Anchorage Daily News.

The disqualification was contested at the meet and drew immediate criticism. From the Anchorage Daily News:

Annette Rohde, who was working as an official at the dual meet between Dimond and Chugiak, said she “froze in disbelief” when she saw the disqualification decision by the meet referee, who has not been officially identified.

Rohde said she questioned the referee about it after the meet.

“I told her, ‘I need to know how you’re defining this, because this is going to blow up,’” Rohde said.

She said the official replied that the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’

South High coach Cliff Murray, a longtime swim coach, said at the beginning of the season that Anchorage high school coaches were told “that as far as the buttocks region goes, you should not be showing any part of the intergluteal cleft.” There is no reference to the intergluteal cleft in the national rulebook.

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The Anchorage School District released a statement yesterday announcing an investigation into the disqualification:

ASD is reviewing the disqualification of a student athlete during the September 6 Dimond High School home swim meet. The disqualification appears to stem from a difference of opinion in the interpretation of the rules governing high school swim uniforms. Immediately after the disqualification, the Dimond HS swim coach filed a protest with the official to contest the decision. The coach’s protest was quickly denied at the meet, and we expect the coach to appeal. We intend to gather all the facts surrounding the disqualification so we can accurately address the matter with officials and take appropriate action to ensure fair, equitable competition and consistent application of the rules for this athlete and her peers.

Lauren Langford, a swim coach at a nearby high school, published a post on Medium about the incident. She said that the swimmer in question was wearing a school-issued swimsuit, the same suit that all the other girls on the team were wearing, none of whom received a violation. Langford called out racist motives as well, saying that the swimmer’s sisters had been similarly targeted:

This young lady and her sisters are being targeted not for the way they wear their suits but for the way those suits fit their curvier, fuller figured bodies. The issue has come so far unraveled that parents in opposition of these girls and their swimwear have been heard saying that for the sake of their sons, the mother of these young ladies should cover up her daughters. Talk about thrusting modern women back into an era in which men were never held accountable for their behavior! Some will argue this has nothing to do with race, but when the same officials targeting these girls have been heard saying that so-and-so white girl also shows too much skin but has never been disqualified for a similar violation the racial facet of this issue cannot be ignored.

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Last September, according to a timeline of events provided by the Anchorage School District, a swim team parent went so far as to take photos of the teenager at a swim meet and then send them to others to provide evidence of inappropriate swim attire. The school district said that “the assistant principal indicated to the parent who took the photographs that it was not permissible for him to take pictures of others’ children and that he should stop immediately.”

Langford told the Washington Post that the swimmer has even been accused of hiking her swimsuit up on purpose. “The fact that she’s been told she’s intentionally trying to draw this sexual attention has really crushed her.”

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According to KTUU, the swimmer’s mother “wants her daughter’s disqualification overturned, her victory restored, and the referee they’ve had conflicts with to stay away from officiating her girls’ races.”

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Update (Sept. 11, 8:50 a.m. ET): After Anchorage School District concluded their review of the disqualification, it concluded yesterday that the swimmer was targeted unfairly and sent an appeal to the Alaska School Activities Association. ASD said in a statement:

Following our review of the September 6 disqualification of a Dimond High School swimmer, to include interviews of multiple witnesses, the Anchorage School District has concluded that our swimmer was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body. We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape. This disqualification was heavy-handed and unnecessary.

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Less than an hour after receiving the appeal, the ASAA decided to reverse the disqualification and return all points to the team, KTUU reported. It has not decided on whether to decertify the referee or whether to suspend the suit coverage rule.

A Swimmer Was Disqualified from Winning a Race Because an Official Felt Her Suit Was Too Revealing

FangXiaNuo/Getty Images

Last week, 17-year-old swimmer Breckyn Willis was disqualified from a race after an official felt that she violated her high school’s rules by showing too much of her backside.

Willis, a swimmer at Dimond High School in Alaska, had just won a 100-yard freestyle race when her victory was tossed out because of how her swimsuit was riding up. But Willis didn’t choose the suit she was wearing. It was a team uniform issued to her by her school. And even though she and her teammates were dressed identically, she was the only one cited for a uniform violation.

The Anchorage School District took note of this discrepancy and immediately filed an appeal to the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA), which governs athletics in the state’s school, according to The Washington Post. The school district asked the ASAA to reevaluate the disqualification based on the fact that it was “heavy-handed and unnecessary,” and that Willis was “targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body.” (Related: Let’s Stop Judging Other Women’s Bodies)

Fortunately, Willis’ win was restored less than an hour after the appeal was made. The ASAA’s decision to reverse the disqualification cited a rule that says officials are supposed to notify a coach about inappropriate attire before an athlete’s heat, according to local news station KTVA. Since Willis had already competed wearing the same suit on the same day, her disqualification was void.

The ASAA also reportedly sent out a guidance letter to all swim and dive officials, reminding them that they are required to consider whether a swimmer is intentionally rolling up a swimsuit to expose his or her buttocks before they issue any disqualifications.

But many believe that Willis’ disqualification was more than just a misunderstanding or misplaced judgment.

Lauren Langford, a swim coach at another high school in the area, told The Washington Post that she believes “racism, in addition to sexism,” played a role, considering Willis is one of the few non-white swimmers in the school district.

“All of these girls are all wearing suits that are cut the same way,” Langford told The Post. “And the only girl who gets disqualified is a mixed-race girl with rounder, curvier features.”

“That to me is so inappropriate,” Langford added, noting that female swimmers are often accused of purposefully hiking up their suits when it’s usually something that happens unintentionally. (Related: Why Body-Shaming Is Such a Big Problem and What You Can Do to Stop It)

“We have a term for it—it’s called a suit wedgie,” Langford said. “And wedgies happen. It’s uncomfortable. No one’s going to walk around that way intentionally.”

Turns out, this isn’t the first time Willis’ attire has been called into question. Last year, a male parent took a photo of her backside (!) without her permission and shared it with other parents to show that girls on the team were wearing “inappropriate” swimwear, according to the Anchorage School District.

The school district’s officials took serious issue with this unnamed parent’s approach. Dimond High’s assistant principal told the parent that “it was not permissible for him to take pictures of others’ children and that he should stop immediately.”

Understandably, Willis’ mother, Meagan Kowatch is unhappy with the way her daughter has been treated. While she’s glad her daughter’s victory was reinstated, she feels a lot more needs to be done to reconcile the incident.

“It’s a commendable start but this is not going to end here if this is all they’ve got,” Kowatch told KTVA. “We’re going to end up with a lawsuit. So, we’re optimistic that conditions are going to get better but at this point, it’s just not enough.”

Kowatch wants the ASAA to apologize to her daughter. “ASAA needs to be held accountable for what happened to ,” she said.

In the meantime, the Alaska School District’s senior director of secondary education, Kersten Johnson-Struempler said that the district launched an investigation into Willis’s disqualification and “will do more to make sure their students feel safe,” according to KTVA. (Related: Study Finds Body-Shaming Leads to Higher Mortality Risk)

“We really want kids to be judged on the merit of their play on a field, or a pool, or a court, whatever their sport is,” Johnson-Struempler told KTVA. “We don’t really have any desire for kids to feel like they’re being body-shamed or judged because of the shape of their body or size. We really want them to be fully engaged in those activities and only concentrating on their sport and nothing else.”

17-year-old swimmer disqualified from race ‘because of revealing swimsuit’ has decision overturned

A 17-year-old swimmer who was disqualified from a race she had already won after a referee ruled that her swimsuit was ‘immodest’ and revealed too much of her backside has had the decision reversed.

Breckynn Willis, a student at Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska, wore the approved, school-issued swimsuit to compete in a competition against Chugiak High School.

After winning the 100m race, however, the head referee disqualified the student, reportedly claiming that the girl’s swimsuit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’

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The rest of the Dimond High School swim team were wearing the same swimsuit, but Willis was the only student disqualified.

School officials stood firm beside the young athlete. In a statement released by the Anchorage School District (ASD), the decision was described as “heavy-handed and unnecessary”.

Dewayne Ingram, the Dimond High School coach, appealed the decision which was presented to the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) on behalf of the team.

On Tuesday, the ASAA overturned the ruling.

In a statement, the Anchorage School District concluded that Willis “was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body.

“We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape.

“This disqualification was heavy-handed and unnecessary,” it read.

The appeal’s requests that Willis’ disqualification be reversed, that all points be returned to the team, that the official be decertified and that the current NFHS suit coverage rule be suspended due to its ambiguity and potential for bias in influencing official’s decisions are all being sought by the ASD.

Dewayne Ingram, the Dimond High School coach, previously spoke of Breckynn and her younger sister, Dreamer’s, commitment to the sport, commending their “commitment and consistency” over a three year period.

“They’re just an inspiration that should be celebrated and applauded, not rebuked,” he said.

The Anchorage School District described the young athletes are “phenomenal competitors”, adding that “their hard work, determination and grit in the pool should be an inspiration to us all.

Alaska follows national high school standards that call for male swimmers to have their buttocks covered and for girls to have both their buttocks and breasts covered.

Lauren Langford, a swim coach for the neighbouring West High School team, told NBC that she had heard people say that the girls had “got what they deserved” and that “they got what was coming to them”, comments which have had a negative impact on the athletes.

“It is my opinion that she has been targeted and singled out over the last year,” she said.

The Independent has contacted Dimond High School for comment.

Alaskan Teen’s Swim Meet Victory Reinstated On Appeal After She Was Disqualified Over a Swimsuit ‘Wedgie’ an Official Deemed Immodest

An Alaska swimming official’s disqualification of a high school student athlete for wearing an allegedly revealing swimsuit has added fuel to the controversy over the policing of female athletes’ bodies. During a meet in Anchorage last Friday, the female official disqualified a 17-year-old Dimond High School student who had just won a 100-meter freestyle race on the grounds that the seat of her swimsuit was exposing too much of her behind.

A swimming coach who is a friend of the girl’s family tells TIME she believes that the girl stands out only because she is “fuller-figured.” Other people familiar with the girl tell TIME it is unlikely that she wore her suit in a manner that contravened attire rules intentionally; the swimmer’s mother told local news station KTUU that the official had previously also “critiqued” her younger sibling’s swimsuit.

The Anchorage School District announced Tuesday that it is overturning the disqualification and reinstating the team’s lost points. The district has also removed the official’s certification, and will suspend the swimsuit coverage rule moving forward.

Annette Rohde, who was volunteering as an official at Friday’s swim meet and is the mother of a girl on the Dimond High’s swim team, tells TIME that she found the official’s call to be “ridiculous.”

“You can’t make a call like that just because you don’t like the way the suit is sitting on their body,” Rohde says. A former gymnastics coach, Rohde says that she’s familiar with the way focusing on an athlete’s body can affect them. She describes the uniform rule as a “grey area” in the rulebook.

Although the swimsuit regulations are derived from guidelines written by the National Federation of State High School Associations, the way rules are enforced is determined by state-level sports association. The Federation’s uniform rules say that girls’ swimsuits should “cover the buttocks and breasts,” and presents a diagram that shows “appropriate and inappropriate” swimsuit coverage. (The Federation also issued a memorandum on swimsuits in August, which said that there was a “trend” of female swimmers wearing their suits inappropriately.)

However, some say that these rules are unclear, and that many female swimmers have at least part of their buttocks exposed. Swim team parents also argue it doesn’t make sense to penalize athletes (let alone inconsistently) when their uniforms shift as they are competing.

Joey Caterinichio, a national official for USA Swimming who also officiates for Anchorage high schools, says that Alaska School Activities Association implemented the uniform rule last year, and the disqualification policy was put in place this year. Caterinichio says that she’s been pressing the Alaska Association to eliminate the rule because it’s far too subjective, and puts an undue emphasis on students’ bodies. While she says that the she’s heard that the NFHS some girls hike their suits up in other states, she’s never seen this happen in Alaska, and the students should be given the benefit of the doubt.

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“If children are in the same swimsuits, we’re no longer judging the swimsuit — we’re judging the body,” Caterinichio tells TIME.

Lauren Langford, an Anchorage swim coach who also knows the 17-year-old’s family, posted images of common swimsuit uniforms on Medium, showing that none of the suits could fully cover a swimmer’s buttocks.

“They’re not in compliance even before they get on the body of a swimmer. Some of these brands are currently being used as team suits. If lots of girls are wearing them, and they’re cut in a way that is ‘immodest,’ why has only one swimmer been disqualified?,” Langford wrote.

“We cannot allow our organization to become one that engages in body-shaming — it should promote a healthy body image for all athletes,” Langford continued.

In a statement, the school district noted that the swimsuits were purchased by the team, and that the swim program had “made deliberate efforts over the last year to ensure athletes’ uniforms meet the regulations.”

“The disqualified athlete was wearing the approved, school-issued suit during the race. In the first three meets this year, the Dimond swim team has had no disqualifications related to the wear of the swim uniform,” the district said.

School officials and witnesses say that the controversy over the fit of the girl’s swimsuit began a year ago, when a parent declared that the girl should adjust her swimsuit. “You girls need to cover up for the sake of my boys,” the parent said, according to witnesses.

A parent also took a photo of the girl on the swim deck and shared it around as evidence that her suit was inappropriate, according to the school district. The assistant principal stepped in and “indicated to the parent who took the photographs that it was not permissible for him to take pictures of others’ children and that he should stop immediately,” the school district said.

After the girl was disqualified in Friday, her coach immediately challenged the decision. The school district later announced that it had reviewed the decision, and decided that it was inappropriate.

“Following our review of the September 6 disqualification of a Dimond High School swimmer, to include interviews of multiple witnesses, the Anchorage School District has concluded that our swimmer was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body. We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape. This disqualification was heavy-handed and unnecessary,” the school district said in a statement.

Write to Tara Law at [email protected]

Dimond high school swimmer

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