An Alaska high school swimmer was immediately stripped of her victory for a “uniform violation,” igniting cries of body shaming, sexism and discrimnation.
Breckynn Willis, 17, participated and won a 100-meter freestyle state championship race at Dimond High School in Anchorage Friday evening. Upon emerging from the water, she was disqualified by the referee because he could see "butt cheek touching butt cheek."
According to the National Federation of High Schools rules, all swimmers are required to wear a one-piece suit to "cover their buttocks." Willis was wearing a swimsuit assigned to her by the team.
None of the other girls wearing the same school-distributed outfit as Willis were cited for violations.
“We have a term for it — it’s called a suit wedgie, and if you’ve ever been a swimmer, you've had one," said Lauren Langford, Director of YMCA Aquatics and coach for West High School's swim team. “All of these girls are all wearing suits that are cut the same way. And the only girl who gets disqualified is a mixed-race girl with rounder, curvier features.”
In a post on Medium that has since gone viral, Langford continued to call out the discrimination, declaring Willis was punished for her athletic physique; a combination of genetics and years of training.
KTUU-2 reports Willis' younger sister, Dreamer Kowatch, who also participated in swim competitions, had a run-in with the same referee. The ref openly critiqued her suit's fit during a meet.
In August, the National Federation of State High School Associations notified coaches about a rule change that allows athletes to be disqualified if a uniform is not within guidelines. A change of attire would also delay the race.
The Anchorage School District confirmed the suit Willis was wearing was approved and considered to be in compliance. That same swimsuit had been used without incident at three prior meets this season.
The Anchorage School District is also investigating the incident, saying they would not tolerate any actions that “discriminate” or “target” student athletes in a statement.
Photo: David Oliver