Judge Sinks High School Swimsuit Dispute

CLEVELAND (AP) - High school diver Teresa Deak (pictured at competition, right) filed a lawsuit to defend her international swimsuit and her right to compete in it.

Now, the Rocky River Magnificat junior will get a chance to dive at a state tournament.

Last Thursday, diving judges at a district diving tournament at Cleveland State University disqualified Teresa, saying her swimsuit's flag design broke Ohio High School Athletic Association rules.

She was in third place after completing five of 11 dives, but the disqualification knocked her out of contention for one of nine spots at the state finals.

So Teresa sued the association in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

The judges at last week's state qualifying meet said her suit's material, a collage of flags from various countries, violated rules that limit the size and number of flags, logos, and other decorations allowed on uniforms.

Teresa's lawyer, John Huettner, brought the swimsuit with him to court so Judge Thomas J. Pokorny and Steve Craig, the OHSAA's lawyer, could take a look.

"It's a Speedo she purchased off the racks at T.J. Maxx," Huettner said.

Pokorny ruled that Teresa could compete in the state finals Thursday.

Teresa is happy with the decision and plans to wear basic black to state competition, said her mother, Karen Deak.

None of the other nine district qualifiers will be bumped to make room for Teresa. She will simply be added to the list of competitors.

The court's temporary restraining order doesn't change the association's rules, Craig said.

The state association follows a National Federation of State High School Associations rule that limits competitors to wearing one American flag not exceeding 2 by 3 inches on each uniform piece. The uniform rules are meant to avoid commercialization and student athletes becoming billboards, Craig said.

Another court hearing is scheduled for March 5 in case any questions remain about Teresa's standing. Craig said he's not sure whether the association will pursue the matter.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)