Lia Thomas’ NCAA Woman of the Year bid expires, and the Ivy League chooses Columbia fencer

On Monday, the NCAA announced its conference selections for the 2022 Woman of the Year honor, choosing Columbia University fencer Sylvie Binder over the national champion and University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. Binder, a senior from Armonk, New York, was one of 577 students nominated for this award earlier this month, and one of eight athletes nominated from The Ivy League.

She was the 2019 NCAA Women’s Foil Champion, finishing fifth at The Ivy League Championships, second at the Northeast Regional, and third at the NCAA Championships with an overall record of 17-6. She also received the Women’s Connie S. Maniatty Award as Columbia’s finest senior student-athlete in 2022. Binder was chosen above numerous other athletes, including Thomas, whose nomination in mid-July ignited a dispute about her status as a transgender female.

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Thomas set records in the pool during the 2021-2022 college swimming season, culminating in an NCAA swimming championship in March and a major debate about transgender participation in athletics. As the 2022 season progressed, Thomas – who started hormone replacement therapy in 2019 – shattered UPenn records in the pool, breaking the university’s school record in the 100 free (47.37), 200 free (1:41.93), 500 free (4:33.24), 1,000 free (9:35.96) and 1,650 free (15:59.71).

Lia Thomas' NCAA Woman of the Year bid expires, and the Ivy League chooses Columbia fencer
Lia Thomas’ NCAA Woman of the Year bid expires, and the Ivy League chooses Columbia fencer

Thomas won three events in the Ivy League championships in February, finishing first in points among the league’s 129 female swimmers. A new school and meet record of 47.63 was set by Thomas in the 100-meter freestyle. On top of that, Thomas swam the 200 free in 1:43.12 seconds and the 500 free in 4:37.32 seconds to win first place, both of which were pool records for the swimmer.

According to Sports Illustrated, Thomas smashed Olympian Kate Ziegler’s previous record of 500 free times in the Ivy League Championships. After coming fifth in the 200-meter freestyle at the NCAA Championships and ninth in the 100-meter freestyle, Thomas won first place and set an Ivy League record in the 500-meter freestyle.

Thomas was a three-year member of the Penn men’s swim team prior to his transition. Thomas was one of two University of Pennsylvania students nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year. Iulia Bryzgalova, a tennis player, was also nominated. This award is open to “student-athlete of color or international student-athletes” who are nominated by a college or university.

Her remarkable performance on the women’s tennis team at the University of Pennsylvania led to her selection to the All-Ivy League first teams in both singles and doubles. A 23-7 overall record earned Bryzgalova the ITA Northeast Region Senior Player of the Year award for the 2021-2022 season. Following the news on Monday, the field was reduced to 151 hopefuls.

Each division will now have 10 nominations, and the top 30 will be announced in October, by the Women of the Year Selection Committee. Personal statements, community involvement and leadership, academic accomplishment, and athletic prowess are all considered in the selection process.

This year’s winner will be announced at the NCAA Convention, which takes place in San Antonio, in January.