Paris Daniels told her friends one thing was for sure: After junior college, she was refusing to go to school in the state of Kansas.
Two years at Coffeyville Community College was enough for the St. Louis sprinter.
“It was so dead. Boring,” Daniels said. “I couldn’t wait for my two years to be up.”
So how exactly did the senior end up here at Kansas University, where she’s poised to challenge many of the school records set by an Olympian five years ago?
“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Daniels said. “I feel like this was the best decision.”
Even if KU wasn’t originally her first choice.
Daniels first committed to Arkansas before complications with a class forced her to change her plans.
KU coach Stanley Redwine and sprints coach Elisha Brewer came to her hometown for a visit, and Daniels says what stood out most was their honesty. Sitting with her parents at Starbucks, Daniels was told that athletes trained hard at KU, but when they did, they also reached their potential.
Daniels committed to KU after a campus visit the next week.
“It all worked out for the best,” Daniels said. “I’m so glad that I came here.”
The feeling is mutual for KU, especially after Daniels’ opening indoor meet where she set herself up for a potentially huge senior season.
At the Bob Timmons Challenge on Dec. 6, Daniels set a pair of facility records at KU’s Anschutz Pavilion, winning the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.32 seconds and the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.62 seconds.
The performance was impressive for a number of reasons:
n Both marks stand as the best times in the nation this season.
n Daniels beat the facility records set by former KU sprinter Nickesha Anderson, who later made the Jamaican Olympic team. And Anderson’s times came in late January of 2008, meaning she had an extra month and a half to train for those races compared to Daniels.
n The 200 indoor time of 23.62 seconds was better than Daniels’ best indoor mark in 2012 (23.63 seconds). And that time earned her an 11th-place finish at nationals.
“She ran fast in December, but the goal is for her to run faster come conference and nationals,” Brewer said. “It’s an amazing start.”
The improvement is partly because of Daniels’ emphasis on workouts. The senior is alternating short and long runs, which helps her increase her endurance and also her original burst.
Brewer said there’s more to it than that, though. Daniels has embraced the focus and work ethic it takes to improve every day, and that includes effort in the weight room, where she’s become much stronger.
What’s most encouraging for Brewer is that Daniels is far from a “picture-perfect” runner.
There are times when she still swings her arms violently across her body instead of straight out to her side. She still can relax more — it’s hard to run fast when your body is tight — and Daniels will admit that her starts aren’t always great.
“I do tell her good job, but my coaching style is definitely to push her to be the very best athlete she can be,” Brewer said. “That’s my job. I take that very seriously. I am very tough on her. I have high expectations for her.”
An example of that came after Daniels set the new facility mark in the 60-meter dash last month.
Brewers’s first words to her pupil? “Wow, you got off the blocks a little slow, but that’s an awesome time.”
Brewer then gave her a high-five and a hug.
Daniels has embraced the tough love.
“I feel like I need that push,” Daniels said. “I just feel like it’s motivation.”
Daniels will continue her training in today’s 1 p.m. Bill Easton Classic at Anschutz Pavilion on the KU campus. She will be participating in the 600-meter run, over-training to help her prepare for longer races in the future.
So how good can she be by the end of the season with a start like this?
“Hopefully I can be conference champion again,” said Daniels, who won the 200 in the 2012 Big 12 outdoor championships with a time of 22.89 seconds. “National champion is in the goal.”
Brewer also believes Daniels is good enough to challenge Anderson’s indoor school records of 7.22 seconds in the 60 and 22.62 seconds in the 200.
“I think she has a very good chance of not only making it to the national meet, but being one of the top finishers,” Brewer added. “There are some other good athletes out there, and some good runners out there from other schools, but I definitely would say that I would put Paris up against anybody.”