The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


Committed Gators: Ella Debenham

Caitlyn Lee
Ella Debenham ’24 is committed to play waterpolo for the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens.

Most people, if somehow lucky enough to come across a genie, would deliberate at length about which three wishes they would choose. Money? Immortality? More wishes?

Ella Debenham ’24 is not like most people.

She would not hesitate. As soon as the genie popped out of the bottle, Debenham would blurt out her one dream: a height of precisely 5 feet 10 inches. Debenham, a Pomona-Pitzer water polo commit, currently stands at 5 feet 8 inches. Or at least that’s what she tells people. Debenham said she is—more accurately—somewhere between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches.

“I don’t actually know. I don’t want to know,” she said, preferring to simply stick to her platform shoes rather than discovering the truth.

As a water polo goalie, she explained the disadvantage of not having the additional inches she desires. “I’m too short, especially for my position,” Debenham said. “My arms are too short.”

To counteract her supposedly short arms, Debenham has a set of routines that have led her to remarkable success in the pool.

Journaling is a practice that Castilleja water polo coach Amy Chinn introduced to Debenham. While not having previously thought of herself as one for reflecting, Debenham found journaling before and after games to be effective.

“It really does help before games with intentions and what I want to do,” she said, adding that journaling helps her get into a focused mindset quicker.

Debenham also journals afterwards when reviewing game film: “I like to take a possession, look at it and be like ‘What could I have done differently here?’ and then write that down to make sure that I’m actually paying attention and not just watching film to watch film,” she said.

In addition to journaling, Debenham has a very specific hip stretch which requires some additional assistance.

“I always make someone stretch my hips before I get in the pool,” Debenham said. The lucky helper? An apprehensive Sam Solomon ’24.

“Sam hated it because my hip would pop and it would scare her,” Debenham said.

Journaling and Sam-Solomon-stretching, amongst other routines, have helped Debenham become the dependable and attentive goalie she is today.

But while a keen defender of the goal, Debenham sometimes lets down her own guard. During a student-faculty scrimmage, Debenham had not anticipated having to leave her usual, safe position inside the goal.

“I was wearing a two piece, and my suit was fully grabbed,” she said. “I was flashed in front of the teachers.”

“That was really embarrassing,” Debenham said. “But, you know, it’s okay. That’s fine. Move forward, you know?”

Debenham’s excitement to play for Pomona-Pitzer will surely help her move on from this embarrassing moment.

She recalls looking at the plaques in the gym which commemorated every Castilleja student who continued their sport at the collegiate level. “I remember when we were in middle school, looking up at the wall of people like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re not a sports school, but people do do this. I can do this.’”

Now, it’s Debenham’s turn to join the line of plaques. “I’m excited to hopefully be that for someone.”

So for all of those young athletes out there who wish they were 5 feet 10 inches, know that Ella Debenham is doing it all at 5 feet 8 inches. Approximately.

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About the Contributor
Caitlyn Lee
Caitlyn Lee, Managing Editor
Caitlyn Lee '25 is a Managing Editor for Counterpoint. This year, Caitlyn is excited to uncover all of the different stories on campus, from quirky to inspiring, and she looks forward to collaborating with the staff to share them with the community. When she isn't writing, you can find her swimming, playing BuzzFeed quizzes or munching on Trader Joe's snacks.

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