Alaska high school swimmer’s disqualification over swimsuit fit is overturned

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A top female swimmer in Alaska was disqualified from a race she had already won when a referee ruled that her bathing suit was immodest and showed off too much backside.

The swim coach of Dimond High School in the Anchorage School District plans to appeal the ruling that was made on Friday against 17-year-old Breckynn Willis during a meet against Chugiak High School, NBC affiliate KTUU reported.

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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.

Willis wore a school-issued swimsuit that follows the requirements put forth by the high school sport’s governing body, a district statement on Monday said.

“The coach’s protest was quickly denied at the meet, and we expect the coach to appeal,” the statement said.

“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.”

Annette Rohde, another official working the Dimond-Chugiak meet, told the Anchorage Daily News she “froze in disbelief” when the head referee disqualified Willis from the 100m race she had just won.

Rohde said she confronted the referee after the meet: “I told her, ‘I need to know how you’re defining this, because this is going to blow up’.’’

The referee reportedly told Rohde that the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’

Despite calls for the disqualification to be reversed, the Alaska School Activities Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports, said Friday’s ruling will likely stand.

“We would want the official in every sport, when making a subjective call, that the benefit of the doubt go to the athlete,” Strickland told NBC News on Tuesday.

Willis is one of the Alaska’s top female swimmers, winning state titles in the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly last year.

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Her sister, Dreamer Kowatch, is also a top pool performer, having won Alaska’s 500m freestyle in 2018.

The girls’ mother, Meagan Kowatch, told KTUU that Dreamer had a run-in with the same referee who openly critiqued her suit’s fit during a meet.

Lauren Langford, the swim coach at West High School in Anchorage, wrote a lengthy post on the internet publishing platform Medium saying that swimsuits are sized to fit snugly for racing and that Willis was singled out because she has more curves and looks different than her fellow swimmers.

“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,” Langford wrote in the post on Saturday.

“Their ample hips, tiny waists, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin, and mostly pallid teammates.”

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