Update (September 12, 2019): The Alaska School Activities Association announced it reversed Breckynn Willis’ disqualification.
Willis won four competitions at a swim meet on Friday but was disqualified after referee Jill Blackstone cited a modesty clause. She accused the 17-year-old of altering her swimsuit show off her behind. Willis, who is biracial, is one of the few students of color on Dimond High School’s team.
CNN reports the Anchorage School District said the disqualification was "heavy-handed and unnecessary" and claimed Willis was "targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body."
In the reversal, the ASAA cited a clause in the modesty rule that requires officials to notify a student’s coach if they believe the swimmer’s attire is inappropriate.
“All evidence gathered, including the statement provided by the official, indicated the official did not notify the coach prior to disqualifying the student,” the ASAA said in a statement. “Therefore ASAA has determined, the disqualification was the result of the misapplication of the rule and as a result is being overturned. All team and individual points shall be restored to both the individual swimmer and the Dimond High School Swim team.”
KTUU reports the Anchorage School District is working on decertifying Blackstone. District officials accused Blackstone of targeting Willis and her sister, who is also a swimmer.
Dimond High Swim Coach Scott O'Brien applauded the decision.
“The Dimond High Swimming and Diving Team would like to thank everyone for their support during this difficult situation,” the coach said in a statement. “We would like to thank the Anchorage School District for its efforts in getting the disqualification overturned. It is time for our student-athlete to get back to what she loves — swimming, being the team captain, and just being a high school senior. We ask everyone respect her privacy as well as the rest of the Dimond High Swimming and Diving Team. We appreciate your support.”
Original: A top-ranking female high school swimmer in Anchorage, Alaska, has become the center of attention, not for her prowess in the pool, but after officials disqualified her for “exposing too much of her buttocks,” The Washington Post reported.
During a swim meet on Friday night, Breckynn Willis victoriously beat out her competition in the 100-meter freestyle. However, as she exited the pool, she soon learned that she was disqualified due to her overexposed swimsuit.
Many from the swimming community are rallying behind Willis — one of the few nonwhite athletes on the school’s sports team — and stating that the referee’s call to police her body may be rooted in racism, along with sexism.
“All of these girls are all wearing suits that are cut the same way,” Lauren Langford, a swimming coach at another Anchorage-area high school said. “And the only girl who gets disqualified is a mixed-race girl with rounder, curvier features.”
Langford added that the 17-year-old swimmer was “heartbroken” upon hearing the disqualification notice and learning that people believe she purposefully hiked up her swimsuit.
“The fact that she’s been told she’s intentionally trying to draw this sexual attention has really crushed her,” the coach said.
Meagan Kowatch, Willis’ mother, told KTUU she wants to see the decision overturned and for the referee in question to be kept away from her daughter's races in the future.
According to the Washington Post, the swim team was assigned identical swimwear; yet, the teenager was the only one to receive a uniform citation from officials.
Langford said that this isn’t the first time the young girl has been the source of attention throughout the swimming community. In 2018 during a meet, a parent took a photo of the girl’s butt and shared it with other parents, showing that she and other girls were wearing inappropriate swimsuits. District officials did not reprimand the parent, but the assistant principal said his behavior was impermissible and should stop immediately.
Officials and other coaches said the teen intentionally hiked up her swimsuit to make it more revealing.
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.”
The Anchorage School District announced on Monday they are reviewing the teen’s disqualification, recognizing that the decision is rooted in a difference of opinion.
“We owe it to our student athletes to provide a fair and consistent atmosphere in which they can train and compete to their fullest potential. ASD will not tolerate actions by its coaches, students, staff, or community members that discriminate, target, or otherwise create an unsafe or inequitable environment for its student athletes."