The last dual for University of Pennsylvania swimming was last Friday against West Chester involved a 35-mile drive to the western fringes of the Philadelphia metro. A few in the crowd made the drive awaiting a chance to protest and heckle Penn swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender woman and student-athlete who has been discussed by many and scorned by some.
The scorners had a fruitless wait: Thomas wasn’t there.
The senior, who has qualified in two events for March’s NCAA Division I women’s championships in Atlanta, and has provisionally qualified for the a third, was held out of the meet against the Division II school.
“It was a planned day of rest/not competing,” Pennsylvania associate athletic director Stephen Cunha noted in a statement to Outsports. “They’ve had this date circled for some time and it had nothing to do with the NCAA regulations.”
Penn’s women’s team powered to a 155-145 win over West Chester on Friday. Now the team turns their focus to three postseason meets to come: the Ivy League Championships opening February 16 at Harvard, the East Coast Athletic Conference open championship the following week at Navy, and the NCAA finals opening March 16.
Thomas currently holds NCAA A-cut qualifying marks in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle events. She has a NCAA B-cut qualifying mark in the 1650 free event.
She could also take a run at qualifying marks in the 100 freestyle at the Ivy championships, in addition to swimming legs on the Penn 200-medley and 200-freestyle relay units. Thomas has contested all three events throughout the season.
Still at question is if Thomas will be allowed to compete in Atlanta because of a recently announced change in the NCAA transgender student-athlete inclusion policy.
The new policy, announced January 19, follows guidelines similar to the International Olympic Committee by basing eligibility on the policy of the specific national governing bodies of the individual sports.
In this case, USA Swimming would make the decision through a review panel in line with their transgender athlete policy in place since 2018.