Lia Thomas moved one step closer to becoming the first known transgender woman to win a NCAA swimming championship by posting the top time in the 500-yard freestyle preliminaries on Thursday.
Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania senior who entered the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships as the top seed in the 500, advanced to Thursday night’s final with her top time of 4 minutes, 33.82 seconds. Her previous best this year was 4:34.06.
Thomas led throughout her heat and extended her lead over Stanford’s Brooke Forde on the final lap. Forde finished second in the heat and sixth overall at 4:38.19.
Thomas also is the top seed in the 200 freestyle and is the 10th seed in the 100 freestyle, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Thomas is a former male swimmer for Penn. She has followed NCAA and Ivy League rules since she began her transition in 2019 by starting hormone replacement therapy.
Erica Sullivan of Texas finished second in the 500 prelims at 4:36.79, followed by Virginia’s Emma Weyant at 4:37.25.