To say Michael Stralser’s journey at Western has been unique would be an understatement. It’s not often a collegiate track star competes alongside his twin sister, fights wildfires during the summer and dealt with a recurring bone tumor in one career.
Stralser walked-on to Western’s track team after graduating from Cheney High School. Not expecting to run track in college, Stralser showcased his athletic ability in a month long trial for the coaches at Western.
“The coaches never told me to leave, so I didn’t,” Stralser said.
Stralser grew up playing many sports alongside his twin sister, Emily. The brother-sister duo both competed on the Western track team, participating in heptathlon and decathlon events.
The decathlon is ten total events within one. The 100-meter run, long jump, shot put, high jump and the 400-meter run are first day events. The second day events consist of 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and the 1500-meter run.
“Your body is wrecked afterward, but I absolutely love it, it’s so much fun,” Stralser said.
With their dad as their high school track coach, the athletic siblings grew up running around the track as well as playing basketball and running cross-country during high school.
“We both grew up running around on the track, being at all of our dad’s track practices with him and so we were kind of born into it,” Emily Stralser said. “I did track for 17 years of my life and Michael did it for 18 years.”
Stralser’s time at Western has not been all fun and games. During his junior year, Stralser had to redshirt because of a bone tumor found on his femur.
“I was running and I thought I pulled one of my adductors, it was beginning of summer and about three months later I was getting treatment and nothing was getting better,” Stralser said.
“Eventually the trainers sent me to get x-rays and noticed something was kind of weird so they sent me to get an MRI and the doctor told me I had a bone tumor,” he said.
The first thing Stralser thought of when he heard the word tumor was cancer. The doctor was quick to tell him the tumor was benign, not cancerous.
“During my junior year, I got a procedure and I was good for about six weeks,” Stralser said. “Then it came back and so I had to have another procedure.”
After that second procedure, everything was back to normal and Stralser was able to come back and run two more years of track.
“This last season went well, I’m very pleased with it, but of course you always wish you could do better,” Stralser said.
“I hit some goals, conference definitely had some big positive moments but also some lows. I can’t be unhappy with it either.”
Five years after arriving on Western’s campus, Stralser is graduating this spring quarter with a kinesiology degree and a sports psychology minor.
Stralser eventually earned a full scholarship in his final year of track at Western.
Stralser doesn’t plan on stopping his athletic career after college.
“I want to do something still revolving around athletics, whether that’s medicine within athletics or training people or coaching, something along those lines,” Stralser said. “It’s just got to be something that I love.”
Senior Youngha Kim has been friends with Stralser ever since freshman year. Kim said he can see Stralser using his outstanding personality and passion about the human body to his advantage after college.
“Wherever Michael may land, I am excited to see him share his passion as he inspires others to do the same,” Kim said. “I’ve never been to a place with Michael where he isn’t loved by his peers, mentors and others. He is one of few people that I know who genuinely has the best interest in every one and that is rare to find.”
Throughout his college career, Stralser has also been fighting wildfires during the summer months.
“I applied, got in, went through the basic classes and have been doing it ever since summer of my freshman year,” Stralser said. “I love it, it’s so much fun.”
Stralser also has plans to try out for the U.S. bobsled team.
“I definitely want to go to the combine and try out at least, but I have to put on a lot of weight,” Stralser said.
“Whether or not I make the team, we will see but I think it would be cool just to give it a shot.”
With his time at Western nearly in the rearview mirror, Stralser will remember being a Viking fondly.
“I’m glad I was given the opportunity to run here [Western], it’s been great,” Stralser said. “I’m grateful for all of the coaches dedicating their time to us, to make us better.”
Editors note: An earlier version of this article misspelled Michael Stralser’s name. It has been corrected in this version.