Ashley Leon of Rio Rico, a student at Grand Canyon University, has been working this summer as a lifeguard at the City of Nogales Recreation Department pool.

Grand Canyon University junior Ashley Leon has played soccer starting from the age of 8. However, a serious knee injury during her senior year at Rio Rico High School forced her to retire from playing sports.

Or so she thought.

After transferring from Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher to pursue a bachelor of science in forensic science at GCU in Phoenix, Leon started to get the itch to compete again.

“I had been involved in athletics all my life,” said Leon. “I missed going to games and making memories with teammates.”

Looking for a sport that would require less stress on her previous injuries, the first-year Lope found a new home with the GCU artistic swimming team.

“I knew it would be difficult because it is a combination of dancing, gymnastics, and cheerleading in the water,” said Leon. “I wanted to give it my best and see how it went.”

Luckily for Leon, the years of conditioning and kicking soccer balls helped her “stay afloat” within her new sport.

“I have really strong legs, and the bottom strength I developed from soccer helped me,” Leon said. “Your feet can’t touch the bottom, so your legs are going nonstop for an hour.”

Leon is no stranger to hard work and attributes her motivation to be successful from the struggles of her sibling. After receiving a full ride to the University of Arizona, Leon’s brother let his grades slip and was forced to drop out.

“My brother had a big influence on me, and I learned a lot from his mistakes,” she said. “I pushed hard in school and received a good GPA, which helped me earn a scholarship to GCU.”

Being involved with artistic swimming has also impacted Leon as a student-athlete.

“Artistic swimming has taught me self-discipline and time management,” she said. “Nothing comes easy in life, and preparation plays a huge role in handling school and club sport commitments.”

Leon and senior flag football player Dylan Sanchez were recently chosen as the GCU Club Sports July Student-Athletes of the Month. “These athletes have found new beginnings within their respective teams and are looking to make an impact in their following seasons,” an announcement of the award said.

(This story was originally published on Aug. 3 at, the official website of Grand Canyon University Club Sports. Reprinted with permission.)

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