Lia Thomas finishes last place in the 100-yard freestyle final at NCAA championships

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Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania whose participation on the women’s team sparked national headlines this season, finished last place in the 100-yard freestyle final at the NCAA women’s swimming championships in Georgia on Saturday night.

Virginia freshman Gretchen Walsh set a new pool and program record with her first-place time of 46.05, followed by Alabama senior Morgan Scott and North Carolina State junior Katherine Berkoff with times of 46.78 and 46.95, respectively. 

TWO-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST TAYLOR RUCK WINS 200 FREESTYLE AT NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS, LIA THOMAS FINISHES FIFTH 

Thomas, who set a program record with her victory in 500 free on Thursday, finished dead last with a time of 48.18, despite entering the finals with the fourth-fastest time.

Thomas’s loss comes amid a national debate over the NCAA’s transgender policy.

Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas waits for a preliminary heat in the Women's NCAA 500 meter freestyle swimming championship start Thursday, March 17, 2022, in at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas waits for a preliminary heat in the Women’s NCAA 500 meter freestyle swimming championship start Thursday, March 17, 2022, in at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The NCAA updated its policy in January to defer to the guidance of each sport’s governing body. The NCAA announced that its policy would become effective in March, starting with the Division I women’s swimming and diving championships.

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USA Swimming updated its policy shortly after requiring transgender athletes who are competing at an elite level to have small levels of testosterone — half of what Thomas was allowed to compete with — for at least 36 months before being eligible. But the NCAA said weeks later that the administrative subcommittee of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CMAS) decided it wouldn’t alter its testosterone guidance.

Texas swimmers Erica Sullivan and Evie Pfeifer embrace as 500 Freestyle winner Lia Thomas walks past during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 17th, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia.  

Texas swimmers Erica Sullivan and Evie Pfeifer embrace as 500 Freestyle winner Lia Thomas walks past during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 17th, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia.  
(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships,” the organization said in a statement.

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Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win a Division I national title on Thursday when she defeated Olympic medalist and Virginia standout Emma Weyant by just over a second in the 500 free final.

Transgender woman Lia Thomas (L) of the University of Pennsylvania stands on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle as other medalists (L-R) Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championship lon March 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Transgender woman Lia Thomas (L) of the University of Pennsylvania stands on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle as other medalists (L-R) Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship lon March 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. 
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

She had a disappointing performance in the 200 free final on Friday, an event she was favored to win, dropping to fifth place with a time of 1:43.40. 

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