Who Is Breckynn Willis? Details On Alaska Swimmer Disqualified For Swimsuit Wedgie

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Who Is Breckynn Willis? Details On Alaska Swimmer Disqualified For Swimsuit Wedgie
Entertainment And News

Normally, getting a swimsuit wedgie is uncomfortable but not that big a deal. But when a ref disqualified Alaska swimmer Breckynn Willis' after her swimsuit rode up a bit during a competition, the wardrobe malfunction nearly cost her a race victory. 

Willis, who is 17 and a swimmer on the Dimont High School team in Anchorage, Alaska, was swimming in a meet last week when her uniform came under scrutiny.

Alaska School Activities Association recently imposed modesty rules that require all swimmers to have heir buttocks completely covered. While Willis was wearing her team uniform, which was technically compliant with the rules, the legs of her suit rode up in the back.

A ref saw the way the suit was sitting and disqualified her for breaking the modesty rules.

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The school appealed the ruling and her win was reinstated but the conversation about swimsuits and body shaming is continuing in Alaska sports.

Who is Breckynn Willis? Read on to find out more. 

1. Breckynn Willis won her heat

On Friday, September 6, Breckynn Willis was swimming with her Dimont High School teammates in a competition. She had won a heat of one of her events when suddenly a referee told her she was disqualified.

When she and her coach inquired about the disqualification, the ref said she had violated the uniform policy by allowing too much of her buttocks to be showing. The referee said that she could see “butt cheek touching butt cheek.”

2. A new school policy led to the disqualification

The ref was acting according to newly instated rules from the Alaska School Activities Association that say that all swimmers need to cover their buttocks during a competition, according to KTUU. The rules were based on guidance from the National Federation of State High School Associations which was responding to a trend of swimmers hiking their uniform suits up too high. 

"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 over the summer. "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 official guidance on the matter says that swimsuits 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."

3. The ref was too strict

The protocol for handling uniform violations is pretty undefined, according to a lot of people involved in competitive swimming.

An Anchorage area coach named Cliff Murray told the Anchorage Daily News that at the beginning of the season high school coaches were told “that as far as the buttocks region goes, you should not be showing any part of the intergluteal cleft.”

He went on to explain that the rule is managed on a case by case basis but typically refs don't jump right to vacating a race result with a disqualification.

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“If you’re in a situation where your suit creeps up, somebody comes over to a coach and says ‘hey, you’ve got an athlete who needs to adjust his or her suit,’ and they have that opportunity to fix it,” Murray said. “And if they don’t, there are ramifications.” This ref did not notify the swimmer or her coach about the problem before issuing the disqualification.

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4. Uniforms fit differently

Lauren Langford, another swim coach in the region noted in a Medium post that the suit Willis was wearing was the official uniform from her school and was compliant with the rules. However, because of Willis's body proportions, the suit sat on her differently than it might sit on a swimmer with a different body shape.

She accused the ref in the question of responding not to the cut of the uniform or to an athlete deliberately altering a uniform to reveal the buttocks, but to a young woman's body. "These young swimmers aren’t being punished for wearing their suits in scandalous or provocative ways," Langford wrote. "But rather, because their ample hips, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin, and mostly pallid teammates."

She went on to say "Some will argue this scandal has nothing to do with race. But the issue becomes glaring when officials are overheard acknowledging that white athletes are baring too much skin as well, yet they’ve never been disqualified for a similar violation."

Breckynn Willis is racially mixed.  

5. It's not the first time Breckynn Willis was targeted

Both Langford and Willis's mother Meagan Kowatch feel that Breckynn and her sister Dreamer Kowatch have been unfairly targeted for suit violations that stem from their body shapes in the past as well.

"[Dreamer Kowatch], one of the fastest athletes in the history of Alaska swimming," Langford notes, "has told her family and friends she feels as though the community is telling her that her specific body is not appropriate for competitive swimming."

Lanford goes on to say "[Breckynn Willis] was the subject of one rogue team parent’s photography project last season, in which they took graphic photos of her backside in her swimsuit — without her knowledge or consent — and circulated the images via email as evidence that her attire is immoral. She is a minor — that parent should be arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography."

6. Willis' disqualification overruled by the state

Dimont High School immediately appealed the ref's decision about the race. The Alaska School Activities Association took only an hour to reverse the ref's ruling.

While KTUU reports that ASAA did not make a determination on whether the enforcement of the modesty rules was improperly focused on Breckynn and her sister they did overturn the decision because the official did not notify the coach about a problem prior to Willis' race.

In order to prevent such issues in the future, ASAA sent out a letter to all swim and dive officials stipulating 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. A student with a suit that rides up by accident should not be penalized. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010 whose work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.