Mike Tully of Detroit of UCLA boosted the world indoor record for the pole-vault to 18 feet 5 1/4 inches yesterday, as the 14th NCAA Championships provided a dramatic ending to the American indoor track season.
While Tully was setting his mark, and then missing in three hurried attempts at an all-time best of 18-83/4, Franklin Jacobs of Fairleigh Dickinson, on an adjacent layout, was attempting to boost the world indoor high jump mark to 7-8, a height also never attained, in or out. He settled for a meet record of 7-5.
Incredibly, until they were coping with unattained heights, neither Tully nor Jacobs had a single miss.
In the first final of the exciting afternoon in Cobo Arena, freshman Skeets Nehemiah of Maryland survived a sitback start and a blanket finish to capture his final national title. Nehemiah was clocked in 7.16 seconds for the 60 high hurdles, runner-up James Walker of Auburn in 7.17 and third-place Greg (Fly) Robertson of Maryland, the leader until the last stride, 7.18.
Robertson was originally announced as the second-place finisher, prompting the two Terrapins to slap hand in unbridled joy, but after they had left the building to celebrate, a protest by Auburn Coach Mel Rosen led to a review of the photo on a reversal.
Howard finished second in the mile relay, but this year the script was different. In 1977, the Bison won their section only to have Kansas run faster in the second host. This time Howard built a 20-yard lead in the fastest section, to be undone by an amazing 47.0 anchor quarter by Alabama's Joe Coombes.
Texas-El Paso took the team title for the fourth time in five years by rolling up 44 points to 38 for runner-up Auburn. The Miners at one point had 54, after winning the two-mile relay, but they were disqualified for an unauthorized substitution, Kenyan Peter Lemashon.
UCLA athletes rarely compete in this meet, but the scheduling of the Bruins' first-round game in the NCAA Basketball Tournament for yesterday prompted the change of the outdoor dual meet with Long Beach State today. So Tully was given a shot at Earl Bell's meet record of 18 1/4 and , eventually, Tully's own world indoor mark of 18-4, Steve Smith's largely unrecognized pro indoor record of 18-5 and Dave Roberts' outdoor standard of 18-8 1/4.
Tully made 18-5 1/4 on his first try, with a tremendous assist to Lady Luck. He hit the bar, which seemed to pop about four inches in the air and then land back on the supports.
"I've had a lot of bad luck in my career," said Tully, who came close on his second try at 18-8 1/4 despite hurrying his attempts in order to catch a plane. "It took me two years to make 18 and I think I deserve some good luck. Anyway, I had the height, and I probably would have made it in the next two jumps."
Jacobs won the high jump at 7-5, but elected to take two tries at 7-8 because "I just wanted to see what the bar looked like." Jacobs holds the indoor mark of 7-7 1/4, Soviet Vladimir Yaschenko owns the outdoor standard of 7-7 7/8.
Robertson was first out of the blocks in the hurdles final and it appeared to many that he had held on to win. None of the three in the tight finish was sure of the winner until the announcement was made.
Nehemiah started poorly, slammed three hurdles and said he even thought about giving up. But he regained his poise, exploded over the last of the five hurdles and leaned forward so far he almost lost his balance.
"I was expecting a longer gun," Nehemiah said. "When it went off, I was caught in the middle of a repeat breath and I was actually on the way back.
"I wasn't even in the race. My teammate (Robertson) deserved the race. He blew everybody off the blocks. If I hadn't bent over at the tape, where I almost fell, I might not have won it. That extended lean has helped me before, though.
"I'm glad I was able to keep my head and come back. But I'm not as enthused as I would have been if I'd been in control. Deep down I don't feel that good, because I never had control over this race."
I didn't drive through the tap," Robertson lamented. "I dipped and looked up. It cost me."
Both Nehemiah and Robertson talked of how this 1-2 finish had been their season-lon goal, and how the order didn't matter. Much later they learned of the change in the finish and a disappointed Robertson merely said, "Bum deal."
Robertson, who lives in South Bend, Ind., took Nehemiah home with him for Sunday dinner.
"He's my teammate and my friend," Robertson said. "We try to psych each other up, get each other going. This has been my best indoor season ever. I feel like I'm progressing very well and the rest of my years at Maryland my goal is to be a All-America. If I beat Skeets, fine, as long as he's second."
Howard's Richard Massey, third in the 440 Friday night, became a double All-America for the second straight winter. The Bison's usual anchorman, he led off yesterday in 48.32, giving Howard a lead it held until the final 15 yards.
Zack Jones, 49.01, and Michael Archie, 48.96 expanded the Howard lead to 20 yards but Reggie Sojourner's 48.94 anchor leg was not enough to hold off Coombes, an Olympian from Trinidad and Tobago. Howard was timed in 3:15.23, Alabama in 3:15.11.
"I'm not in my best shape and even though I got caught that's the best I've run on boards," Sojourner said. "That last lap it was just a matter of guts. I tried to stumble to the tape. I thought I could hold him off, but he shocked me. When I got the stick, I just tried to run away, break him down. He didn't break."
"Indoors in a race of this kind, with the caliber of people you run against, you can't afford to get behind," said Howard Coach Bill Moultrie in explanation of his shift of Massey from anchor to leadoff. "After Massey's leg, it was a matter of hanging on, running free and passing the stick free. I's like to have won, but I'm proud of their performance."
Maryland shared sixth place with 20 points, Howard tied for 14th with 14.
Curtis Dickey, the 220-pound Texas A&M running back, won the 60 in 6.15 seconds as Olympian Harvey Glance of Auburn was unable to qualify for the final, a failure that in the end probably cost the Tigers the team title.
Foreign athletes would up with seven titles in 15 individual events, as James Munyala of Kenya and Texas El-Paso won the mile in 3:59.81 and Gerald Deegan of Ireland and Providence capttured the two-mile in 8:41.39.