• A girl diving into a pool

      Ella Lesnever dives in at the CIF championships (Photo – Michael Lesnever)

      Ella Lesnever won her third and fourth swimming titles on May 8 at the CIF-Southern Section Division-4 finals at Mt. SAC.

      By Scott Phelps

      She won both the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle championships, setting personal best times in both events, and breaking the meet record that had stood for 15 years in the 100 yard. She is finishing her junior year at Blair, so she looks to break the record for most CIF swimming titles in Pasadena public school history, a record which stood for eighty-four years.

      Formative Influences: Swimming and Girl Scouts

      Ella’s prowess has been the result of years of swimming. She joined her first swim team when she was seven years old and has been enjoying it ever since. She swam for the Beach Cities team in Redondo Beach, and then she moved here to Pasadena for 3rd grade. She swam for the Sea Tigers team in South Pasadena before moving to the Rose Bowl Aquatics team, and has continued to swim on the Rose Bowl team. Her father said that “It is hard to tell Ella’s story without mentioning Girl Scouts and the positive teachings and experiences that it has provided her since kindergarten. Ella is a Gold Award winner, the highest-level award for Girl Scouts (the equivalent of a Boy Scout Eagle Scout).”

      Jackson Elementary to Blair, Spanish Immersion Program

      She went to PUSD’s Jackson Elementary school, where she was in the Spanish Dual Language Immersion Program (DLIP) and then to Blair for middle school and high school. She finished the DLIP program in the 10th grade at Blair and has earned California’s Seal of Biliteracy.

      9th Grade: Winning her first CIF Title

      Blair’s swim team was in Division 4, which is the division for the smallest schools. Blair’s team qualified all three of their relays, so they sent the whole girls team to the CIF championships that year. She won the 50 yd freestyle, her first CIF title, and she got second place in the 100 yd freestyle, but she didn’t qualify, based on her fastest times, to go to the state championships that year.

      10th Grade: Winning her second CIF Title and going to the State Championships

      Blair went up one division to Division 3. Ella won the 50-yard freestyle for her second CIF title and came in second in the 100 yd freestyle again, even though it was a higher, tougher division. She qualified for the state championships via an at-large spot that year based on her time. She placed 29th out of 40 in the state in the 50-yard freestyle.

      A girl wearing medals around her neck

      Ella Lesnever with her CIF championship medals (Photo – Michael Lesnever)

      11th grade: Third and Fourth CIF titles and Top Ten at the State Championships

      This year Blair went back to Division 4. The 200 free relay from Blair qualified so the whole varsity girls team got to go to CIF again. Ella won both the 50 and 100 freestyle races, her third and fourth CIF titles! That ties Dick Lyons from the 1940’s who was also from Pasadena area schools for the most CIF titles in swimming for a Pasadena public high school swimmer. He became a Navy SEAL and an Admiral in the Navy.

      At this year’s CIF finals, Ella swam 23.17 seconds in the 50 yd free and 50.25 seconds in the 100 free. Both were personal records! This put her 4th in the whole CIF Southern Section in both events, so she made it to state through the five spots allotted to Southern Section. At the state championships, she placed 9th in the 50 yard and 8th in the 100. 25,000 California high school girls participated in swimming in 2024, and Ella finished in the top ten in both events!

      Her upcoming senior year at Blair, Improving Blair’s facilities

      She looks forward to next year at Blair. She has been at Blair from 6th grade to now. The athletics have grown during this time and are now more recognized. In 7th grade, she helped with successful fundraising campaign for starting blocks (Parent members of the PTA submitted a successful grant to the Tournament of Roses Foundation to get the funds for the starting blocks) and electronic timers, and now they have all of that equipment. They can host home swim meets and have a team. Her family would like to thank Coach Daniela Nava, Blair math teacher, for coaching the swim team!

      At first there were not a lot of swimmers. A lot of athletes have gone to other schools because of better facilities. Blair needs to have its pool resurfaced, for example. They need an improved weight room and the Blair Boosters are raising funds for that goal, but they need Pasadena USD board and staff support for that effort, which they haven’t received yet. Ella is the reason the Blair Boosters exists because after successfully raising funds for the aquatics program, she wanted to help the other sports teams at Blair so she researched how to start a non-profit and recruited a board of directors made-up of parents and community members. She has always advocated for people staying, that Blair is competitive. For example, last year they had the girls water polo team stay over at a tournament and did very well, and then they made the CIF playoffs (and won a game) for the first time in Blair High School history! The boys basketball team won CIF last year and stayed over out of town too because of this fundraising. The Blair Boosters have now raised over $100,000 in the last two years, since its inception. Both of her parents have been active in the Boosters effort.

      Colleges recruiting her–A bright future ahead

      Colleges have been recruiting Ella as a result of her swimming prowess and have made offers of admission and scholarships. Division 1 colleges start recruiting as of June 15th after a student’s sophomore year so it has already almost been a year of being recruited. The future looks very bright for Ella!


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