Autumn Champion’s first day of classes went from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The next day, she had to read 12 chapters. For the next 15 months, she’ll be going to class, working nonstop.

“This program just doesn’t stop,” Champion said.

That can’t be much harder than hitting .489 for a season, or winning a Women’s College World Series title, right?

Champion, a former UA softball star, was recently admitted into the UA’s Master’s Entry to the Profession of Nursing program. That’s 15 months of classes and, eventually, clinical work.

Eight years ago, she wrapped up a stellar senior season for Mike Candrea’s squad with a national championship.

After that, she taught kindergarten. Then, over the last year and a half, she took the prerequisite courses — accelerated — before applying for the master’s program.

“I felt like there was something else out there for me,” Champion said. “I wanted to continue at the U of A more than anything, so I applied and was so excited that I got in first time around.”

She doesn’t mind getting back in the classroom as a student, either.

“I’m one of those weird ones that kinda likes going to school,” she said, laughing.

The Star spoke with Champion, a four-time All-Pac-10 selection, on Wednesday about her new career path, with a few UA softball questions sprinkled in.

The Wildcats will play in the NCAA Super Regional starting tonight:

Now that you’ve started down your new career path, are you excited for what’s to come as you finish out these next 15 months?

A: “Absolutely. It’s my third day today, and each day it gets more and more exciting. It gets me feeling like I definitely chose the right thing. I think it’s so interesting, and nursing has so many different pathways that you can go down, so it makes it really fun.

“Just in general, you’re learning about stuff that’s so applicable to not only you, but people around you, so it’s really cool to be able to take that information and apply it to real life.”

Have you been keeping track of the softball team?

A: “Absolutely. I was able to go to their regional game (last) Friday night, so that was really exciting to get to go to that. I’ve been following. I’m good friends with (former UA star and volunteer assistant) Caitlin Lowe, so I keep in touch with her and ask her how things are going.

“I’m excited for them, and hopefully they can bear down this next weekend and get to the World Series. Their offense is just insane. They’re really amazing; it’s a different team than when I played. We had more of a small game and the hitters to move the small game people around, and now it’s just bomb after bomb. It’s nuts. Its just like, the bats have so much pop. The fans in general like the long ball — it’s exciting for them.”

What made the 2006 team so special?

A: “You know, out of the four years I was there, that team definitely had the best camaraderie. We got along really well on and off the field, and when you get a group of girls together, that’s not necessarily the easiest thing.

“Honestly, out of the four years I played, that wasn’t the most talented team, but being able to get along with your teammates and enjoy being with them makes all the difference in the world. It makes a difference in how you play for each other and for yourself.”