From walk-on to national champion.

It’s the type of story every athlete dreams about.

But, for Washington High School graduate Abby Stricker, it was no dream.

Stricker, a 2015 Washington High School graduate, became Columbia College’s first-ever individual NAIA champion in May when she won the NAIA long jump title in Gulf Shores, Ala.

“Going into the finals, I was seventh or eighth,” Stricker said. “They take nine to the finals, and only eight make All-American, so I knew I had to do something. On my second-to-last jump, I felt like everything went perfect. It was the perfect jump. I landed one centimeter longer than the top jump to win the title.”

Stricker went 5.91 meters (19-4) to win the championship in the 37th Annual NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships. She also finished 21st in the triple jump at the same meet.

When she graduated Washington High School in the spring of 2015, Stricker never expected to compete in track and field. However, she was persuaded to join the team at Columbia College, and she quickly made a difference.

“I had decided to go to Columbia College for the biology program and I heard they were starting a track team,” Stricker said. “I last competed my sophomore year of high school. I emailed the coach and asked if I could try it.”

Stricker said she wanted to try the sport again.

“I did it to have fun and get involved on campus,” Stricker said.

In high school, Abby’s top event had been the high jump and that’s where she expected to contribute to the program.

“I started in the high jump,” Stricker said. “I got to try the long jump in one meet. I had never tried that event before.”

Stricker showed a natural aptitude for the event and her one-meet trial developed into a regular spot.

As a freshman in 2016, Stricker was sixth in the indoor national meet and she finished second in the outdoor meet. She also placed 16th in the triple jump.

“Our coach is really good about being open to putting us into events we haven’t done before,” Stricker said. “I’ve gotten to try a lot of different events.”

She’s competed in running events from 100 to 800 meters. She’s run hurdles races and thrown the javelin. She also has pentathlon experience.

“I came very close to qualifying in the javelin. Next year, I hope to qualify for nationals in that event and make All-American, too.”

She’s also had success in the pentathlon and hopes to continue with that as well.

Abby is the daughter of Sophia and Jerry Strucker of Labadie and she is majoring in biology/forensics.

“It’s been crazy,” Stricker said. “I’ve won athlete of the year, athlete of the week and freshman of the year awards.”

Stricker said young athletes should never give up on competing at a college level.

“I would tell young athletes to contact the coaches,” Stricker said. “Stay in it, even if you don’t think you’re good.”

She feels track has something for everybody.

“Track has over 20 events,” Stricker said. “You always can find an event you’re good at. And, there’s always room for improvement.”