Update: This story was updated with a new article Tuesday evening: Anchorage School District calls decision to disqualify swimmer over suit ‘heavy-handed and unnecessary’
A Dimond High School swimmer was denied a victory Friday after she was disqualified for a “uniform violation,” prompting a widely shared blog post by an Anchorage swim coach who lashed out at the decision.
The National Federation of High Schools rule in question says boys must cover their buttocks and girls must cover their buttocks and breasts.
An official who worked at Friday’s meet at Dimond High said the referee who disqualified the girl said she could see “butt cheek touching butt cheek.”
The disqualified swimmer participated in four races Friday and was disqualified from one, according to the official results. Three weeks into the season, she has competed in 14 races and been disqualified once.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Anchorage School District said it is reviewing the incident.
“The disqualification appears to stem from a difference of opinion in the interpretation of the rules governing high school swim uniforms,” the statement said. “We intend to gather all the facts surrounding the disqualification so we can accurately address the matter with officials and take appropriate action to ensure fair, equitable competition and consistent application of the rules for this athlete and her peers.”
Annette Rohde, who was working as an official at the dual meet between Dimond and Chugiak, said she “froze in disbelief” when she saw the disqualification decision by the meet referee, who has not been officially identified.
Rohde said she questioned the referee about it after the meet.
“I told her, ‘I need to know how you’re defining this, because this is going to blow up,’ ’’ Rohde said.
She said the official replied that the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’
South High coach Cliff Murray, a longtime swim coach, said at the beginning of the season that Anchorage high school coaches were told “that as far as the buttocks region goes, you should not be showing any part of the intergluteal cleft.”
There is no reference to the intergluteal cleft in the national rulebook.
“From my understanding it’s a case-by-case basis,” Murray said of enforcement, adding that some officials have “a harder problem with it than others.”
“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.”
Rohde said she doesn’t know if the Dimond girl’s suit rode up before, during or after the race. She said she didn’t notice it at all.
Leif Jacobsen, the Bartlett activities principal in charge of swimming and diving for the Anchorage School District, said Friday’s disqualification is the only uniform violation he’s aware of this season, which started Aug. 23. Friday’s was the third meet of the season for Dimond.
The school district said the disqualified swimmer “was wearing the approved, school-issued suit during the race." Dimond High purchased the approved suits for all of its swimmers this year, the district said.
When news of the disqualification spread through the swimming community, West High coach Lauren Langford decided to write about it.
She believes some officials are targeting the Dimond swimmer because she and her two sisters, who are also on the team, don’t look like other swimmers. They are mixed-race and “curvy,” she said.
“It comes down in my opinion to the race thing," she said. Asked if the girls’ achievements -- the sisters are among the best high school swimmers in Anchorage -- she said that could be part of it, too.
“It was so targeted. It was so intentional, and so individual," Langford said. "She’s one of three girls on the Dimond team who look like her. Everybody else is in same suit, sized to fit, and yet on a team of however many girls she was the only one that got singled out?
“I was filled with so much anguish over the way these young girls have been forced to suffer.”
That’s why she wrote about it on medium.com in a post titled “Alaska High School Swimming & Diving’s Inexcusable Swimsuit Scandal.”
The disqualification and the post have become hot topics. Rohde said it has divided the swim community into groups that think girls are showing too much skin and those who think suits that ride up on the buttocks is part of swimming.
“We have a term for it – it’s called a suit wedgie, and if you’ve ever been a swimmer, you’ve had one,” Langford said.
Langford, Rohde and Murray all said they have never seen the Dimond girl purposely alter her suit so that it is not covering her buttocks.
Annika Rohde, Annette Rohde’s daughter and a junior on the Dimond swim team, criticized the decision.
“The concept of docking points from a girl because of her body is just ridiculous,” she said.
This story has been updated with the Anchorage School District’s statement.