Two-time Olympic medalist Taylor Ruck wins 200 freestyle at NCAA championships, Lia Thomas finishes fifth

A 21-year-old junior out of Stanford University, Ruck entered the finals with the top time of 1:41.89 in the prelims, just ahead of Thomas’ second-place finish of 1:142.09. But the field looked completely different in the finals when Ruck breezed into first place with a time of 1:41.12 while Thomas dropped to fifth place with a time of 1:43.40.

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“I’m just so glad to have my teammates here behind me, and this whole season has just been such a blast being back, and I’m so grateful to have them here,” Ruck said after the race.

Stanford Cardinal swimmer Taylor Ruck celebrates with teammates after winning the 800 free relay national championship at the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships at Georgia Tech. 

Stanford Cardinal swimmer Taylor Ruck celebrates with teammates after winning the 800 free relay national championship at the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships at Georgia Tech.  (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

Friday night’s loss follows Thomas’ first-place finish in the 500-yard free, in which she finished with a time of 4:33.24, a program record for the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s swim team. 

She beat out Virginia standout and Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant by over a second to become the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship. 

Thomas’ participation in the women’s program has been harshly criticized in the women’s sporting world. 

Martina Navratilova, widely considered one of the greatest female tennis players in history, suggested that when transgender swimmers like Lia Thomas win women’s races, they should have “an asterisk” by the victory because “the rules are not correct.”

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“It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning ever,” Navratilova told NewsNation Prime. “But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men.”

Texas swimmers Erica Sullivan and Evie Pfeifer embrace as 500 Freestyle winner Lia Thomas walks past during the NCAA swimming and diving championships March 17, 2022, at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta.  

Texas swimmers Erica Sullivan and Evie Pfeifer embrace as 500 Freestyle winner Lia Thomas walks past during the NCAA swimming and diving championships March 17, 2022, at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta.   (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NCAA updated its transgender participation policy in January to defer to the guidance of each sport’s governing body. The NCAA announced that its policy would become effective in March, starting with the Division I women’s swimming and diving championships.

USA Swimming updated its policy shortly after requiring transgender athletes who are competing at an elite level to have small levels of testosterone — half of what Thomas was allowed to compete with — for at least 36 months before being eligible. But the NCAA said weeks later that the administrative subcommittee of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CMAS) decided it wouldn’t alter its testosterone guidance.

“Implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships,” the organization said in a statement.

Transgender woman Lia Thomas (left) of the University of Pennsylvania stands on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle as other medalists (L-R) Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I women's swimming and diving championships March 17, 2022, in Atlanta. 

Transgender woman Lia Thomas (left) of the University of Pennsylvania stands on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle as other medalists (L-R) Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I women’s swimming and diving championships March 17, 2022, in Atlanta.  (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Thomas will compete in one final event Saturday — the 100-yard freestyle — for which she is the 10th seed.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and Tyler O’Neil contributed to this report.

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