Leah Thomas is nominated by the University of Pennsylvania for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

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University of Pennsylvania nominated swimmer Leah Thomas for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

The University of Pennsylvania has nominated a transgender athlete for the award, which is given to female student athletes, according to an NCAA statement.

“Established in 1991, the award recognizes female student athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and excelled in their community, athletics, and academics throughout their college careers,” the NCAA nominations page says.

NCAA member schools are “invited to honor their top female graduate athletes by nominating them for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award,” the announcement said.

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University of Pennsylvania swimmer Leah Thomas and Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines react after placing 5th in the 200 freestyle final at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Leah Thomas and Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines react after placing 5th in the 200 freestyle final at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
(Rich von Bieberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After member schools nominate their candidates, their conference may select up to two candidates.

Thomas, a former swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania, won Thursday’s 500-yard freestyle race at the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

Her participation in women’s college swimming sparked a national debate, with some saying she has an unfair advantage over other athletes.

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Leah Thomas of Pennsylvania waits for the preliminary heat at the start of the NCAA Women's 500m Freestyle Championship on Thursday, March 17, 2022 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Leah Thomas of Pennsylvania waits for the preliminary heat at the start of the NCAA Women’s 500m Freestyle Championship on Thursday, March 17, 2022 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Riley Gaines, the University of Kentucky swimmer who tied for fifth place with Leah Thomas in the NCAA swimming championships, said most women disagree with the trajectory of the women’s sport.

“Most of us, athletes or women in general, don’t really agree with this, and they are not happy with the trajectory of this, the way this is happening and where it could end up in a few years,” Gaines. said on the “Unmuted with Marsha” podcast with Sep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

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She was referring to the NCAA’s refusal to change the rules to protect competitiveness in women’s sports.

The University of Pennsylvania also nominated Yulia Bryzgalova, who plays tennis at school.