Paige McKenna on Lia Thomas: “I respect her so much”


Reported by Anne Lepesant.


  • NCAA Record: 4:24.06 – Katie Ledecky, Stanford (2017)
  • Meet Record: 4:24.06 – Katie Ledecky, Stanford (2017)
  • American Record: 4:24.06 – Katie Ledecky, Stanford (2017)
  • US Open Record: 4:24.06 – Katie Ledecky, Stanford (2017)
  • Pool Record: 4:30.81 – Leah Smith, Virginia (2016)
  • 2021 Champion: Paige Madden, Virginia – 4:33.61


  1. Lia Thomas, 5Y Penn – 4:33.24
  2. Emma Weyant, FR Virginia – 4:34.99
  3. Erica Sullivan, FR Texas – 4:35.92
  4. Brooke Forde, 5Y Stanford – 4:36.18
  5. Evie Pfeifer, 5Y Texas – 4:37.29
  6. Paige McKenna, FR Wisconsin – 4:37.35
  7. Kensey McMahon, SR Alabama – 4:40.06
  8. Morgan Tankersley, SR Stanford – 4:40.08

Fifth-year Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania won the 500 free, making history as the first transgender swimmer to win an NCAA title.

Texas freshman Erica Sullivan was the first to flip at the 100, leading Thomas 52.6 to 52.8. At the 200, it was Sullivan in 48.2 to Thomas’ 48.4. Thomas pulled even at the 250 wall and took over the lead at the 300. She moved half a body length ahead of Sullivan at the 350 but to her other side, Emma Weyant moved into second place. Thomas was 3:11.80 to Weyant’s 3:11.98.

Thomas powered home to win by a body length with 4:33.24. Weyant touched second (4:34.99) while Sullivan was third (4:35.92). It was Thomas’ best time this season by .78, and the top time in the NCAA for 2021-22.

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Chris Meadows
1 year ago

I didn’t know Paige before this article/video, but I’m a fan and look forward to cheering her own for years to come.

Faulty Touch Pad
1 year ago

“I support anyone who wants to do what they want to do. I support everyone’s decisions.” That’s a statement of someone that is definitely annoyed with the question lol. Vague af haha

Last edited 1 year ago by Faulty Touch Pad
1 year ago

this girl has class.

1 year ago

When they ask them questions like this it makes me so mad

1 year ago

Thank you, Paige! Congrats to you and congrats to Lia!

1 year ago

Imagine being 18/19 and immediately after you finish a grueling race there is a chance that you’re going to be asked to comment on a really challenging topic. AND anything that you said could be blown up over night, taken out of context, and/or follow you for the rest of your life. Regardless of where you fall on Lia’s participation, the media has put so many young women in awfully challenging positions this week and so many of them have handled it so gracefully. Props to all of them!

Reply to  swimswamswum
1 year ago

I mean. All sports are this way, not so sure why swimmers think they won’t ever have to talk to the media or be asked hard questions. You sign up for it when you sign that letter

Swim Mom
Reply to  Hswimmer
1 year ago

Talk about their swims. Their journey. Not someone else.

Reply to  Hswimmer
1 year ago

While that’s true, it doesn’t make it any easier.

Chris Meadows
Reply to  swimswamswum
1 year ago

Imagine being 21/22 and being heckled and called a cheater from the stands for swimming at a meet that you qualified for and have every right to swim at according to the rules.

Miranda N.
1 year ago

As she should. Queen Paige:)

1 year ago

It seems like kind of a safe, noncommittal statement. She didn’t flat-out say “I believe it’s appropriate for Lia to compete as an equal in the women’s division,” nor did she say the opposite. She just said that people should be treated with respect, and she sympathized with Lia’s situation at NCAA’s, which I think most people agree with.

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