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Swimmer disqualified for curvier figure in school-issued swimsuit will get her win

Breckynn Willis, 17, was disqualified after a win because a referee said her school-issued swimsuit showed too much of her backside.
/ Source: TODAY

A teenager who was disqualified after winning a swim meet because the referee said her school-issued swimsuit showed too much of her backside will get her hard-earned win after all.

Breckynn Willis, 17, a star swimmer at Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska, was disqualified after winning her meet on Sept. 6 because the referee said her swimsuit exposed too much of her body. The controversial decision fueled outrage and accusations that the teen was being body-shamed for being curvy.

Breckynn Willis, on the left, was initially disqualified after a referee took issue with how her school-issued swimsuit fit her body.

Willis' school district supported her and took its appeal to the Alaska State Activities Association, which voted to overturn Willis' disqualification and restore the points she earned. State rules require that a referee notify a coach of any illegal attire before a heat or dive.

"All evidence gathered, including the statement provided by the official, indicated the official did not notify the coach prior to disqualifying the student," the Alaska School Activities Association said in a statement.

Willis is ranked as one of the best female swimmers in Alaska. Last year, she won state titles in the 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly.

This diagram shows how the school-issued swimsuits are supposed to fit swimmers.NBC News

The Anchorage School District said in a statement on Tuesday that its investigation concluded that "our swimmer was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body."

"We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape," the district added. "This disqualification was heavy-handed and unnecessary."

Willis' sister, Dreamer Kowatch, is also a top swimmer in the state. Their mother, Meagan Kowatch, told NBC affiliate KTUU that the same referee had previously criticized the way Kowatch's suit fit her body during another swim meet.

The latest incident prompted the Alaska State Activities Association to send out a reminder about swimsuit guidelines to swim and dive officials in the state.

"ASAA believes students are not intentionally rolling up their swimsuits in this manner," the note said, adding that offficials are asked to "assume school uniforms are legal and will remain so," and to contact a coach prior to a heat if they observe any potential swimsuit coverage issues.

This story was originally published Sept. 11, 2019.