Maryland's role in the IC4A Indoor Track and Field Championships altered from dark horse to horsefeathers Tuesday afternoon when hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah suffered a sprained ankle in a practice session.

"It's doubtful if he'll be able to run," Coach Frank Costello said yesterday. "If he does, he'll be confined strictly to the hurdles."

Nehemiah is the world indoor record-holder for the 60-yard high hurdles at 7.07 seconds and was considered a sure winner of that event, as well as a scorer in the 60-yard dash, in the meet at Princeton this weekend.

Without Nehemiah, Maryland has "not a chance" of beating out defending champion Villanova, according to Costello. Although the injury is not considered serious and the IC4A is a prestigious event, Costello said he would not take any risks with his prize recruit.

Villanova, loaded with top runners in a meet geared to running events, was the favorite even before Nehemiah's mishap.

"With him, we would have an outside chance," Costello said. "You go up there hoping something happens, and it usually does. There are other schools with athletes capable of upsetting Villanova people."

Villanova has its troubles, too, with flu sapping its runners' strength earlier in the season, and with South African miler Sydney Maree wearing a leg cast to strengthen an injured foot. All are expected to be ready, however, for the meet regarded as the top indoor priority by Coach Jumbo Elliott. His Wildcats have captured the team title 14 times since 1957.

Maryland was unimpressive last week in recording its annual Atlantic Coast Conference championship. However, several Terrapins were sick and 600 runner Mark Fields' disappointing fourth place was blamed more on the rickety 11-lap track at Raleigh than on any personal failure.

"Fields can win the ICs on that 220 Tartan," Costello said. "It would be awfully tough, though. (Bob) Calhoun is capable of winning the 60 and the long jump. Dennis Ivory can win the triple jump -- I know he can, but if he does is a different story. (Ian) Pyka rates with the best in the shot. Brian Melly will do well in the high jump, but Franklin Jacobs should win it. If Nehemiah can't run, (Greg) Robertson could still win the hurdles. Our mile relay can place in the top three."

Is that enough to win? Not without Nehemiah.