Penn women’s swimmer Lia Thomas is breaking records for the Quakers.
The Austin, Texas native is a senior freestyler and has been blowing her competition — and Penn’s record books — out of the water. Continuing an already dominant season, Thomas competed at the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio this weekend and won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:41.93, a time that was good enough to set school, pool, and program records and marked the fastest in the nation this season.
This result came a day after winning the 500-yard freestyle preliminaries by a whopping 14.39 seconds. She has been turning heads across the swimming world for weeks due to her in-pool performance, but has in recent days drawn the attention of some national media outlets acknowledging her identity as a transgender woman.
For Thomas’ first two seasons at Penn, she competed on the men's team, most recently in November 2019, where she also achieved great success. She qualified for the Ivy League Championships in the 500 free, 1000 free, and 1650 free in her 2018 and 2019 seasons, finishing second overall in each event in 2019.
After sitting out for a year due to the NCAA-mandated one year of testosterone suppression treatment that is required for trans athletes, Thomas now competes on the women's team. For Thomas, that one year of suppression treatment coincided with the pandemic, during which the Ivy League canceled athletic competition, meaning she did not miss out on any races.
“[Swimming] is a huge part of my life and who I am. I’ve been a swimmer since I was 5 years old,” Thomas said to Penn Today last June. “Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport, and being able to continue is very rewarding.”
Thomas will represent the Quakers on Jan. 8 against Dartmouth at home at the Sheerr Pool.
Editor's Note: The headline and the text of this story have been updated to increase sensitivity.