Maryland claimed an early lead in the 56th IC4A indoor track championships today after the first two field events.
At the conclusion of today's competition at Princeton University the Terrapins had garnered 10 points, compared with six for Southern Connecticut, five for Army, four for Harvard and three for Villanova.
Maryland coach Frank Costello maintained, however, "If I were betting money, I'd bet on Villanova."
Costello, whose Terrapins are defending the title they won here last winter, said "the running events are more reliable than the field events and Villanova's strength lies in the running events."
Maryland picked up its 10 points when Dennis Ivory won the long jump with a leap of 24-feet-4 1/2 and John Davenport placed second with 24-3/4.
"My steps are starting to come on now," Ivory said.
"Early in the season, my steps were never on. But lately I have tried starting my approach 120 feet away (from the take-off line) instead of 124 feet and it has helped a lot," he explained.
"Now that I am confident of my steps, I think I can do 25-5 at the nationals."
On the strength of an early-season leap of 25-1, Ivory has qualified to compete in the NCAA championship meet in Detroit later this month. His 24-4 1/4 today came on his first jump.
Davenport said he "just wanted to make sure that no one beat me today unless it was Dennis."
"No one jumped real well today, but I was satisfied with my performance because I just wanted to score the points for the team."
"On my last jump, the official said I had the winning distance except that my hand dragged and hit in the pit," he noted.
Costello said he had expected Maryland to go 1-2 in the long jump, but he had hoped Larry (Shorty) Long would score, too.
Long, who is expected to have a good shot at the gold medal in the triple jump Sunday, was able to manage only 22-10 in the long jump.
Villanova tallied three points in the long jump when Derrek Harbour came in third at 23-10.
Costello complained, "I had only figured on Harbour getting fourth.
"We're not having the pleasant surprises that you like to see. Instead, we're playing with exactly what we've got."
Villanova coach James (Jumbo) Elliott said, "Predicting the outcome of a meet like this is like spinning a roulette wheel."
"We don't have any superstars like Eamonn Coghlan this year. Instead we have a bunch of quality athletes in the running events who must score high to offset Maryland's field strength."
Elliott was also in a critical mood, saying, "I thought (Mark) Belger could run easy in that two-mile relay." The competition forced Belger to run a brisk anchor leg to enable Villanova's team to finish in the top four and qualify for Sunday's final.
Belger, who Costello called "the finest half-miler in the nation," is likely to score for Villanova in the 880-yard run as well as contributing to the two-mile relay.
Both Costello and Elliott pointed to Seton Hall as the third team with a good shot at the team title.
Although Seton Hall did not score in either of today's finals, several of the Pirate's sprinters and hurdlers did well enough in the trials to qualify for Sunday's finals.
Finals in 12 running events and four field events will take place Sunday to complete the 18-event competition at Princeton's modern, dome-shaped Jadwin Gymnasium.