CINCINNATI — Gamble Montessori High School senior Laila Christmon never hesitated when it came to playing four sports in high school.
In fact, the class valedictorian would have it no other way.
Christmon, who graduates May 28, played football and volleyball in the fall. She played basketball in the winter and softball in the spring.
She earned her 4.75 weighted grade-point average through sacrifice, time management and a vision for her future. Those classes included Advanced Placement psychology and probability and statistics.
"I told her no matter what you do - whether you're playing basketball, volleyball, soccer, football anything - your brain is the one that's going to get you to the next level," said Jonathan Christmon Sr., Laila's father. "That's what you have to focus on."
There were nights of homework until 11 p.m. for Laila in her family's Avondale home after a full day of school and practice.
Summer homework was completed in the car as the family traveled around the Midwest while Christmon played Amateur Athletic Union basketball.
Academics and athletics were interwoven for Laila Christmon.
As a result, she earned a full academic scholarship to Central State University where she will continue her basketball career.
"You can't be a student-athlete with bad grades because then you're just an athlete," Christmon said.
"People don't want to see athletes. They want to see a student-athlete. You may come home at 9 o'clock but you still got to finish it out."
Laila Christmon, 17, is ready for her next journey in life. She will leave a truly unforgettable sports legacy at the school.
"Laila is the best thing going around here in this city," Gamble Montessori football coach Robert Rachel said. "She's going to be a great role model for younger kids. If there is any parents that want to see what a student-athlete is they could use Laila all day long."
Christmon plans to study special education in part because of a gym class last year where she was able to share a bond with a special education student.
"It made me realize there is different perspectives on life," Christmon said. "You can see life from other perspectives by looking at the way they live because they're not complaining of anything. They're just living life they know how to live. And watching him made me really interested in teaching."
It's that life perspective which has earned Christmon a great deal of compliments from her coaches.
"On the court she's a great athlete," Gamble Montessori girls basketball coach Sean Lanier said. "Off the court she's a role model for the girls. She is a role model to the students. Everybody looks up to Laila. There is not a person in this building that would say a bad thing about Laila."
During the fall, she practiced football special teams twice a week along with games and played volleyball the other days.
At one point, she brought her football uniform to a volleyball match and quickly went from one sport to the other in a matter of a few hours.
Her coaches say Christmon is always willing to connect with teachers and students throughout the entire building.
"She wants to see everybody be successful," Lanier said. "She wants to help."
Christmon said the Cincinnati Public School in Westwood gave her the ability to interact with students of other ages and backgrounds.
"Gamble has developed me to become a leader and speak up for myself and talk for what I want," she said. "Our core values community, respect - all that - you develop them every year that you go there."
Christmon's athletics legacy is so defined that she signed a pair of football cleats and basketball shoes for the school.
"I'm pushing for her to be put in Gamble's hall of fame," Rachel said.
Christmon was a two-time all-Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference Blue division softball player. She played pitcher, catcher and shortstop this spring.
"She has such natural talent," Gamble Montessori softball coach Michelle Crawford-Davis said. "And whatever you put into Laila she's able to execute. And that's the joy of coaching her."
Christmon was a two-time CMAC Blue division player of the year in volleyball. She was a two-time all-conference placekicker in football.
In basketball, she was a two-time CMAC Blue division player of the year; she averaged 15.6 points and 12.6 rebounds this past season.
"I mainly did all those sports because growing up I played a lot of sports," Christmon said.
"I grew up playing soccer and basketball. Then when I got to Gamble I actually had an older sister (Simone Christmon) at Gamble. She started being a football kicker first. So I had to follow her footsteps and do that. Then she was in volleyball and basketball so I'm like, 'You can't leave me out.' So I started playing the same sports she did and just developing and turned into actually a pretty good player."
Nicoele Christmon, Laila's mother, and Jonathan, are very proud of not only their youngest daughter's academic success but who she's become as a person.
"I think when she looks back at what she has accomplished I think for her it will be something exciting," Nicoele Christmon said. "I think she's enjoying it now but I don't think it's really hit her what she has accomplished."