Like the spectators who packed Anschutz Pavilion, Prime Network's track announcers were surprised when unheralded Dan Waters won the 800-meter run at last season's Big Eight Indoor.
"I remember watching the video," said Waters, who was not ranked in the top five in the event going in. "At the beginning of the race, they talked about people to look for. They mentioned (ISU's Joseph) Kiptanui and some others. They didn't mention my name once until I came off the last turn.
"The announcer said, `Oh, there's Dan Waters.' After the race, he said, `Are you a little surprised to be here?' I said, `Yeah, really surprised.'''
ENTERING LAST year's conference meet, Waters had established himself as a strong collegiate relay runner. However, the junior from Shawnee Mission Miege had never won a prestigious individual race.
"For some reason, I had a strange confidence right as I started to warm up," Waters said. "In the preliminaries, I beat the defending outdoor champion. I knew he might not be trying that hard, but that gave me confidence. I really liked my chances during the race. The quarter went real slow. It favored me at that time."
That's because he was most familiar with KU's track and was the most powerful runner in the group.
"I'm the biggest half-miler in the Big Eight," said Waters, a 6-2, 180-pounder. "When I hit the 200 mark, I said, `Let's go.'''
HE MADE his move the final 200, clipping Kiptanui at the wire. Waters finished in 1:53.72, the ISU runner 1:53.87.
"Coming off the turn, my eyes were as big as saucers," he said. "It was really exciting. Everybody in the stands was standing and cheering for me because I was wearing a Kansas uniform. My family and friends were there supporting me. It really didn't hit me until the next day when I picked up the paper."
Waters would like to be able to predict repeat headlines at this weekend's Big Eight Indoor, which starts today in Ames, Iowa.
But he can't.
Once again, he's not ranked among the top runners in the league. This year, he's not even in the top eight.
"It would mean more to me do it again because I could prove to everybody it was not a fluke. My time was one of the slowest ever to win the Big Eight," he said. "The announcers said it was not a fast time. I don't think people realize I've run faster, too."
That was a tactical race, the kind of race that would favor Waters again.
"I WAS THINKING the other day, anything can happen. If we lined up all the times, there'd be no reason to run. Out on the track, you never know."
A victory this year might be even more impressive, considering Waters has a stress fracture in his left fibula. He had a partially torn achilles earlier in the season. Also, he's had hip problems since his freshman campaign.
"The 800 always hurts," he said. "It's probably one of the most punishing races in track and field. It's starting to be called the 800-meter sprint or 800-meter dash instead of 800-meter run."
Thanks to Waters, a year ago it was called the most exciting race at league.