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Lia Thomas briefly interviewed with ESPN after winning the women's 500-yard freestyle on March 18, 2022.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

ATLANTA – Penn women's swimming has three Quakers competing at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships at Georgia Tech, including star senior Lia Thomas, who is transgender.

This story was last updated at 6:57 p.m. on March 19. Please check back for new updates.

Thomas places eighth in 100-yard freestyle final

Updated at 6:57 on March 19

After seeding fourth in the 100-yard freestyle preliminaries, Thomas placed eighth in the final with a time of 48.18, falling short of her own season-best of 47.37 and the time of first place Gretchen Walsh of the University of Virginia at 46.05.

Two lanes beside Thomas was transgender swimmer Izsac Henig of Yale University, who tied for fifth with a time of 47.32.

After the award ceremony, when the swimmers were filing out to the exit, Thomas and Henig remained on the podium to pose for a photo together.

Buroker and Kalandadze return for the 1650-yard freestyle

Updated at 5:23 p.m. on March 19

Buroker and Kalandadze competed in the 1650-yard freestyle finals for their second and last events of the competition.

An invited participant, Buroker swam in the first heat and set a time of 16:07.84, an improvement from her previous NCAA B cut time of 16:21.17. Kalandadze finished with a time of 16:31.04, swimming in the fourth heat out of six.

Olympian and University of Texas freshman Erica Sullivan finished in the same event with a time of 15:45.94. Sullivan wrote in support of Thomas through an opinion piece for Newsweek, which was published this week during the competition. The final timed heat of the finals will occur from 6:00 p.m. this evening to decide the final standings of the 1650-freestyle event.

Thomas qualifies fourth in 100-yard freestyle preliminaries

Updated at 11:55 a.m. on March 19

After coming into the preliminaries seeded 10th, Thomas qualified in fourth place with a time of 47.37 — her best time of the season — for the 100-yard freestyle.

With Thomas in the final is also Iszac Henig, a trans man swimming for Yale University who was seeded 17th prior to the preliminaries. Qualifying eighth for the final, Henig will thus swim the same heat as Thomas in the 100-yard freestyle final this evening at 6 p.m.

Penn swimmers in two events on final day of competition

Updated at 10:15 a.m. on March 19

All three Penn swimmers will compete on the final day of the championships. Thomas will swim in the 100-yard freestyle preliminaries in the morning, while Buroker and Kalandadze will compete in the 1650-yard freestyle preliminaries in the afternoon. This will be Penn’s last time in the pool unless the Quakers qualify for the finals.

Thomas is seeded 10th for the 100-yard freestyle ahead of the preliminaries — her last event of the championships. She will swim for a chance to compete in the final after her fifth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle Friday evening.

Thomas ties for fifth in the 200-yard freestyle final

Updated at 7:02 p.m. on March 18

Thomas placed fifth with a time of 1:43.40 in the 200-yard freestyle race, coming nearly two seconds short of winning a second national title this weekend

Taylor Ruck, the first-seeded Olympian and a Stanford University junior, topped Thomas’ personal and Penn program record by .04 seconds in the preliminaries. Ruck’s time at 1:41.12 bested the pool record set earlier in the competition by University of California at Berkeley senior Isabel Ivey.

Thomas will be joined again by teammates Buroker and Kalandadze on Saturday for the final day of competition. Thomas is set to swim the 100-yard freestyle, and Buroker and Kalandadze will race in the 1650-yard freestyle. Preliminary races begin tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

Lia Thomas competes at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18, 2022.

Thomas qualifies second in the 200-yard freestyle preliminaries

Updated at 11:18 a.m. on March 18

Thomas qualified second overall in the 200-yard freestyle preliminaries with a time of 1:42.09 in the seventh heat of the event. Seeded first, Thomas swam in lane four and finished first in the heat. The first-place qualifier was Stanford University junior Taylor Ruck, who swam in the fifth heat at a time of 1:41.89. As such, Thomas will be swimming in lane five this evening during the finals.

There was a spectator in the stands holding up a transgender flag, and waving it when Thomas was walking out after her race. When Thomas saw the flag, she smiled and waved in return.

Thomas the only Penn swimmer for day three of the competition

Updated at 9:42 a.m. on March 18

Thomas will be swimming to qualify for the 200-yard freestyle finals this morning. By qualifying, she will have the chance to compete for her second NCAA title after her win in the 500-yard freestyle earlier in the competition.

Thomas’ best time for Penn in the 200-yard freestyle is also the Penn program record, standing at 1:41.93. The second-seeded swimmer for the preliminaries holds a time about half a second behind Thomas.

Friday marks the third day of the competition, and Thomas will be the only Penn swimmer in the pool. Buroker and Kalandadze will take to the starting block tomorrow for the 1650-yard freestyle, and Thomas will compete in the 100-yard freestyle, marking her third consecutive day of competing.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

Lia Thomas swimming at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18, 2022.

After winning, Thomas declines to speak to the media

Updated at 6:58 p.m. on March 17

After the race, Mike Flynn — Georgia Tech’s assistant athletics director for communications and public relations — told members of the press that while all champions were told they would be required to participate in a press conference, Thomas “has declined to participate in the press conference.”

Aside the brief poolside interview with ESPN directly after the race and an exclusive Sports Illustrated cover story, Thomas has been personally absent from the media since December.

Credit: Jesse Zhang Lia Thomas on the first place podium after winning the NCAA women's 500-yard freestyle competition.

Thomas wins 500-yard freestyle final

Updated at 6:33 p.m. on March 17

Thomas finished first in the 500-yard freestyle final with a time of 4:33.24, beating her time in the preliminary by less than a second. The time also stands as Thomas’ new personal best in the event, topping her previous time of 4:34.06. Emma Weyant of the University of Virginia finished second, with a time of 4:34.99.

A fully occupied media row and crowded spectator stands watched as the race unfolded in close competition. The final laps proved a battle between the fifth-year seniors Thomas and Brooke Forde of Stanford University, but the freshmen swimmers — including Weyant — pulled out all the stops in the final moments to finish out the rest of the top three behind Thomas.

There were reserved cheers for Thomas following the win and during the post-race interview, Thomas attributed her achievements to the help of her friends and teammates.

During the post-race presentation of awards, the second, third, and fourth place swimmers stood together for a photo, while Thomas stood on her own for a photo from her first-place podium.

Even with the win, Thomas’ time was still almost 10 seconds short of Olympian and Stanford University graduate Katie Ledecky’s NCAA record set in 2017.

Credit: Jesse Zhang Lia Thomas shake hands with University of Virginia swimmer Emma Weyant after Thomas won the NCAA 500-yard freestyle competition on Mar. 18, 2022.

Dozens gather to protest — both for and against — Thomas' participation 

Updated at 4:46 p.m. on March 17

Outside of the Georgia Tech McAuley Aquatic Center, a small group gathered to protest Thomas' participation in the championships.

Members from two independent groups — Save Women’s Sports and Young Women for America — gathered to argue that Thomas should not be allowed to participate because she is transgender. A group of counter-protesters consisting mostly of Georgia Tech undergraduate and graduate students who support Thomas and the participation of transgender athletes in sports also gathered, carrying signs with messages such as "We support trans/queer athletes."

Confrontations between opposing protestors were dissuaded by Georgia Tech campus police. The opposing sides stood on opposite sides of the street at the entrance of the McAuley Center, separated by ongoing traffic.

Credit: Jesse Zhang Protestors outside the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center, where the NCAA women's swimming and diving championships are hosted, on Mar. 17, 2022.

Thomas finishes first in 500-yard freestyle preliminary event

Updated at 10:43 a.m. on March 17

Thomas placed first in her first event at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, finishing nearly three seconds ahead of the second place finisher.

Her time of 4:33.82 was good enough to secure the top seed for this evening's finals. Penn juniors Catherine Buroker and Anna Kalandadze did not qualify for the finals, as they placed No. 45 and No. 49, respectively.

Thomas' top time still falls nearly 10 seconds short of Olympian Katie Ledecky’s standing NCAA record, but was an improvement on Thomas' previous personal best of 4:34.06, which she earned at the Zippy Invitational in December.

University of Texas freshman Erica Sullivan and University of Virginia freshman Emma Weyant finished second and third in the preliminary, respectively.

The 500-yard freestyle final is set to take place tonight at 6 p.m.