The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Lia Thomas swimming at a meet on Jan.8, 2022. Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Penn women's swimming left the Ivy League Championships with a historic third-place finish, thanks in large part to Lia Thomas’ consistent standout performance.

Thomas, who is transgender, was unequivocally Penn's standout performer, winning three individual events — the 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, and 500 freestyle — and setting two Ivy League records and three pool records. Thomas also contributed to Penn's win in the Championships' final event, the 400 freestyle.

All told, Penn scored 1,256 points — the most in program history by nearly 200 points — set four new program records, and notched its highest finish ever at the Ivy League Championships.

Thomas' performance in the 100 free event — one of the most highly anticipated of the weekend — ended with both Thomas and the second place finisher, Yale’s Iszac Henig, beating the previous Ivy League record which was set in 2019 by Yale’s Bella Hindley with 47.85 seconds. Thomas finished the event with a time of 47.63, barely out touching Henig who posted a 47.82.

Anticipation for the Championships was heightened in part due to uncertainties on Thomas' eligibility to compete. In the weeks building up to the competition, her eligibility to compete was unclear through changes in NCAA guidelines for transgender athletes. 

With recent clarifications that the NCAA would not immediately adopt more rigid policies on transgender athletes as outlined by USA Swimming, Thomas remained eligible to compete through the Ivy League Championship this week.

The updated policies also clear Thomas to compete in the upcoming NCAA championships in Atlanta, which take place in March, after she qualified earlier this season with record performances at the Zippy Invitationals.

While Thomas was the only swimmer from any school to win three individual titles, Penn junior Catherine Buroker won both the 1,650 freestyle and 1,000 freestyle events, cementing Penn's dominance across the board in freestyle events.

In the 200 fly, freshman Vanessa Chong — the only Penn swimmer to make it to the A final — came away strong with a second-place finish of 1:58.17, setting a new program record. Freshman Izzy Pytel similarly landed in fourth place in the A Final of the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:15.11, a Penn program record.

Not the be outdone by the freshmen, Penn's upperclassmen also came out strong. Senior Hannah Kannan placed fifth in 200 back, clocking in at 1:57.54. Senior Anna Kalandadze finished third in the 1,650 free behind Buroker, with a time of 16:28.85, junior Grace Giddings finished fifth, and freshmen Amelia Girotto's 16:41.17 was good for sixth. 

The three-meter diving proved to be a more challenging event than day two’s one-meter diving. With only junior Olivia Francella advancing to the B finals in the three-meter diving event, Yale was able to regain second place.

The Ivy League Championships were capped off with the 400 freestyle relay, which consisted of Thomas, junior Margot Kaczorowski, senior Hannah Kannan, and junior Camryn Carter. The relay team finished first with a pool and program record time of 3:17.80, ending the night with a high note. It wasn’t enough to bridge the gap between Yale and Penn, though, and Penn ended up two points behind the Bulldogs. 

Penn's 1,256 points, the best performance in the program’s history and one good enough to beat the previous record of 1,073 points set back in 2007, were just two points shy of Yale for second place. Still, Harvard won the Championships by nearly 250 points, scoring 1,503.5.