Victory for Breckynn Willis, as ASAA reinstates her win

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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."

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