Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas built on her record-breaking collegiate season by winning two races at Saturday’s meet against Harvard University as she continues her hotly contested march to the NCAA women’s championships.
The University of Pennsylvania senior took first in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events, edging the competition rather than dominating it, as Penn lost the meet to Ivy League rival Harvard by 187-113 in Boston.
“Lia Thomas won a pair of events on Saturday, finishing first in both the 200 free thanks to touching at 1:47.08 and the 100 free at 50.55,” said Penn Athletics in a press release.
The second-place finishers were Harvard’s Felicia Pasadyn, who finished at 1:48.44 in the 200, and Harvard’s Samantha Shelton, who posted a time of 51.11 in the 100.
Thomas’ time in the 200 was about six seconds slower than her season-best time of 1:41.93, the fastest women’s collegiate mark this year in the nation, on Dec. 4 at the Zippy Invitational at the University of Akron.
Thomas burst onto the women’s swimming scene this season after three years on the men’s team, breaking program, pool and meet records after her transition to female, sparking a national debate over fairness and inclusion in women’s sports.
She holds the fastest time in the 500-yard freestyle at 4:34.06, and the sixth-fastest time in the 1,650 freestyle at 15.59.71, ensuring that she will be a force to be reckoned with at the NCAA Division I championships in March.
The NCAA Board of Governors reacted to the outcry by voting Wednesday to defer to the national sports governing authorities on eligibility standards for transgender athletes, prompting accusations that the organization had passed the buck rather than address the issue directly.
Penn Athletics issued Thursday a statement of support for the 22-year-old Thomas as reports of frustration among her teammates continued to emerge.
“In support of our student-athlete, Lia Thomas, we will work with the NCAA regarding her participation under the newly adopted standards for the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship,” Penn said.
An anonymous parent told Fox News Digital that there was “crying on the pool deck” among Thomas’ teammates and that “morale is bad,” but that the female swimmers are afraid to speak out because “any kind of opposition is immediately called transphobic.”
Thomas cleared the previous NCAA protocol of undergoing testosterone-suppression treatment for at least a year before competing, a standard that critics have decried as inadequate.
Caitlyn Jenner, who won Olympic gold in 1976 in the men’s decathlon as Bruce Jenner, said Wednesday that the NCAA should “stop this right now,” arguing that allowing a male-born athlete to compete against women is unfair even with testosterone suppression.
“It’s unfortunate that this is happening. I don’t know why she’s doing it,” Ms. Jenner told Fox News. “She knows that when she’s swimming, she’s beating the competition by two laps. She was born a biological boy, she was raised a biological boy. Her cardiovascular system is bigger. Her respiratory system is bigger. Her hands are bigger. She can swim faster. That’s a known.”
Penn is scheduled to compete Jan. 28 in West Chester University before the Ivy League Championships on Feb. 16-19 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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