Penn Quakers swimmer Lia Thomas wins 100-yard freestyle, ends with 4 titles at Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, won her third individual Ivy League championship on Saturday night by out-touching Yale's Iszac Henig, a transgender man, in the highly anticipated 100-yard freestyle.

Thomas finished the meet with four titles after leading the Quakers to victory in the 400 freestyle relay later Saturday.

Thomas finished the 100 free in 47.63 seconds, breaking the meet and Blodgett Pool records that were set by Henig just hours earlier in the morning preliminaries. Henig finished in 47.82, and 2020 Ivy League champion Nikki Venema of Princeton was third in 48.81.

It was the first time this weekend that Thomas, who is a senior, was pushed to the end. Swimming side by side with Henig, Thomas trailed the Yale junior at the halfway point of the race and slowly gained ground before nudging ahead right before the wall. Thomas and Henig embraced over the lane line before Thomas splashed the water with her right hand in celebration. Before leaving the pool, she congratulated Venema.

Thomas' time is the eighth fastest in the nation this season, according to Swim Cloud. She shaved nearly 1.5 seconds off her best time this season.

Henig entered the race as the top seed after setting a Blodgett Pool and Ivy League record in the prelims with a time of 47.80.

Before Saturday, the meet record belonged to Yale's Bella Hindley, who set the mark of 47.85 in 2019. Miki Dahlke owned the pool record of 48.64, set in 2018.

With the win, Thomas became the only three-time individual winner at the meet. She won the 200 freestyle on Friday by nearly three seconds and the 500 freestyle on Thursday by more than seven seconds. Thomas' time in the 200 of 1:43.12 set an Ivy League record, and her 4:37.32 in the 500 set a Blodgett Pool record.

All told this week, Thomas is a new owner of two Ivy League records and three Blodgett Pool records.

Thomas also helped the Quakers win the meet's final event, the 400 freestyle relay. Penn's 3:17.80 time set a new pool record and was the first Ivy League championships relay win in program history. Thomas was named the highest swimming point scorer of the meet. Penn finished in third place overall.

Fellow Penn freestyler Catherine Buroker was a double winner this weekend, taking first place in the 1,000 and 1,650. Thomas, who had the best time in the 1,650 in the Ivy League this season and the eighth-best time in the country, did not compete in that event.

Harvard had a pair of two-time winners: Felicia Pasadyn won the 400 individual medley and the 200 backstroke, and freshman Aleksandra Denisenko took home titles in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.

Henig, who set a pool record in winning the 50 freestyle on Thursday, was looking to win his second title Saturday night in his first head-to-head matchup with Thomas in an individual race at the Ivy League championships. The last time they competed against each other was on Jan. 8 in the 100 freestyle in a tri-meet with Dartmouth at Penn. Henig got the best of Thomas in that race, winning in 49.57. Thomas finished sixth that day, more than three seconds behind Henig.

Henig was also part of two championship relay teams this week. He led off Yale's 200 freestyle relay that set a meet record on Thursday, and swam the anchor leg of the 400 medley relay on Friday. Yale was crowned the champion after Harvard was disqualified.

Thomas' winning times in the 200 and 500 were well off her best times of the season. In December at the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio, Thomas set the nation's best times in the 200 (1:41.93) and 500 (4:34.06), qualifying her for the NCAA championships in March in Atlanta.

Since then, Thomas has been at the heart of a debate about who gets to compete, and win, in women's sports. Before competing on the women's team, Thomas spent three seasons on the men's team at Penn. Several of Thomas' teammates have spoken out anonymously, both in support of Thomas and criticizing her inclusion on the women's team.

But the controversy of the past two-plus months was muted throughout the four-day Ivy League championships. Harvard alum Schuyler Bailar, the first transgender swimmer to compete on a Division I men's team, draped a transgender flag over a railing near the pool deck.

Thomas, who has declined multiple interview requests from ESPN, was congratulated by rivals after her wins and high-fived by teammates on the podium. Penn senior Andie Myers wore a face mask bearing the transgender flag throughout the meet. The conference made no swimmers available to the media at the meet.

Thomas has automatically qualified for the NCAA championships in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Her times in the 1,650 and 100 free put her in contention to be selected for those events as well. Henig also is in contention in the 50 and 100 free.