The 56th NCAA Tract and Field Championships reach full stride Thursday, with half a dozen school hopeful of upsetting defending Southern California.

Howard and Maryland are not among these straining six, but both the Bison and Terrapins have reason to expect some bright moments before the conclusion on Saturday afternoon.

Howard's Richard Massey, a 1976 finalist, is a contender in the 400-meter run and will anchor a potent 1,600-meter relay team, which reached the final a year ago.

Gosnell White will lead off, followed by Michael Archie, Reggie Sojourner (also a 200-meter entrant) and Massey, as coach Bill Moultrie has shaken up the normal order of his troops.

"We want Massey and Sojourner chasing people," Moultrie said. They give us a kind of electricity, put is in the position we need. We've got good spirit and I think we can do very well."

Because the first two days of the meet will be contested on a twilight schedule, Moultrie has been conducting his practices from 7 to 9 p.m., just so he gets every last edge.

Maryland hasn't had an NCAA champion since coach Frank Costello was a student high jumper in 1965.The Terrapins came close last year, when Al Hamlin was second in the decathlon, but it would require a super performance for any of this year's team to finish that high. Still, nine men are here for the attempt.

Probably the best opportunity lies with long jumper Dennis Ivory, who won the IC4A title at 25 feet 6 3/4 inches. That would have placed second in last year's NCAA meet, as the event seems to be in a state of decline.

"I think Ivory will be a big surprise," Costello said. "He's had good practices and he should get a good jump out here."

Costello brought his field event-oriented team here Tuesday, a day earlier than Howard, to familiarize everyone with the facilities.

Other Terrapins who could finish among the leaders are Jim Kirby, javelin; Ian Pyka, shot put; Brian Melly, high jump, and Greg Robertson, 110-meter high hurdles. Rod Chesley is another hurdles entry, while Tony Garner will contest the 1,500 meters, Tom Anderson the shot put and Scott Hersh the discus.

"I've been really working on weights, breaking my body down," said Kirby, who holds the school record of 262-6. "I've been working toward these big meets. I don't want to stop now. I'm just starting."

"I'd like to throw 63-plus out here," said Pyka, whose personal best is a school record 61-5 1/2. "I'd like to get (Bob) Medlin (of North Carolina State) for a change, which I think I'll do."

Melly's best is Maryland's record 7-2, but Costello said "7-3 will score here and he'll do that."

Robertson, with a personal best of 13.6 in the highs, can concentrate on that event for the first time, after running the intermediates and leading off the 400 relay in most meets this year.

The only other Washington-area entry is Claude Barron of Navy, in the 5,000 meters.

One man who isn't here is Edwin Moses, the Olympic 400-meter hurdles champion. Moses competed in the Muhammad Ali classic at Norwalk, Calif. on Monday and decided to remain on the West Coast to train for the National AAU meet at Los Angeles June 9-11.

Although Southern California is the choice to repeat, teams with little hopes include Brigham Young, Washington State, Texas-El Paso, Arizona State, Tennessee and UCLA.