Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas led the Zippy Invitational at the University of Akron over the weekend, breaking multiple records for the University of Pennsylvania's women's swim team
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Lia Thomas
Credit: University of Pennsylvania Athletics

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who is transgender, broke multiple records for the school's women's swim team at the Zippy Invitational over the weekend.

Thomas, 22, kicked off the three-day event, held at the University of Akron, strong in the preliminaries Friday. She set a new pool and meet record in the 500-yard freestyle, according to UPenn. The Austin, Texas, native kept the same momentum in the finals and swam over 12 seconds faster, coming in first at 4:34.06. Her time currently marks the best in the country for the event and sets a new program record.

On Saturday, Thomas won the 200-yard freestyle by less than seven seconds and set a new pool, meet, and program record of 1:41.93, the fastest time in the nation, the school shared on its website.

She continued her record-breaking streak Sunday, winning the 1,650-yard freestyle by more than 38 seconds with a time of 15:59.71, according to UPenn. Her teammate Anna Kalandadze finished second.

The Quakers came in second overall at the end of the tournament.

Lia Thomas
Credit: University of Pennsylvania Athletics

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This year, Pennsylvania introduced HB 972, also known as the "Save Women's Sports Act," which calls for students to play on a team consistent with the sex they were assigned at birth. Thomas previously spoke about the impact of such legislation during an interview with Penn Today.

"One of my big concerns for trans people is feeling alone," said Thomas, who is the co-chair of Penn Non-Cis, an organization that provides community for trans and nonbinary people. "Even if you don't pay attention to the news… [about] states proposing and passing vicious anti-trans legislation, it can feel very lonely and overwhelming." 

She added that she'd been swimming since the age of 5 and used the sport to cope, calling it "a huge part of my life and who I am."

Before coming out as transgender, Thomas swam for UPenn's men's team for three years. She joined the women's team in her senior year after taking a break during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opening up about the transition, Thomas told Penn Today: "The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim was a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that's usually really solid. Realizing I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like?"

She concluded, "Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding."