Maryland, Georgetown and Howard entertain hopes this weekend of ending the eight-year drought that has plagued area colleges competing in the eight prestigious Relay Championships of America at the Penn Relays.
The Terrapins' shuttle hurdles team was the last area champion at Philadelphia's Franklin Field, in 1970, and it is a quartet of Maryland hurdlers that is conceded the best chance of bringing home one of those 18-inch bronze plaques.
In fact, with Atlantic Coast Conference champion Greg (Fly) Robertson leading off and world indoor record holder Renaldo (Skeets) Nehmeiah anchoring, most people expect the Terrapins to win.
"They don't understand you win with four, not two," said Maryland Coach Frank Costello. "It adds pressure when everyone expects you to win it. If we still had Rod Chesley, we'd probably set a world record up there. As it is, if we're within reasonable distance when Nehemiah gets his chance, we can take it. But it's no cinch, that's for sure."
Chesley was an academic casualty last summer, so the Terrapins are counting on Tom Gwaltney and David Dixon to fill the gap between Robertson and Nehemiah. It could be asking too much of Dixon, who completed spring football practice Saturday and is far from peak hurdling condition.
Maryland also is fielding a strong entry in the 400-meter relay, with IC4A indoor sprint champion Bob Calhoun, Robertson, Andre Lancaster and Nehemiah. Three fourths of that quarter will also run in the 800, with Manny Rosenberg replacing Calhoun.
Robertson, a favorite in the 400-meter hurdles at 11:30 this morning, and Nehemiah also are entered in the 110-meter highs. That means, if all goes well, that Robertson will run nine times in two days, Nehemiah eight.
"That's the way they love it," Costello said. "In the AAC meet, Fly was running up to me to see what other races he could run. I don't work them that hard during the week. They'll be ready."Georgetown has won 12 relay championships at Franklin Field, the most recent in the four mile in 1966. Its metric replacement, the 6,000-meter event, is the Hoyas' target tomorrow.
"I think we have a pretty good chance, the best since I've been at Georgetown," said Coach Joe Lang. "The kids are competing very well and I'm expecting a good performance at Penn."
As usual, the Hoyas' chances are tied to the health of Jim Peterson. The senior from Wheaton who missed most of the indoor season with a strained Achilles tendon, had been running well outdoors until lst weekend, when he became ill during the Rutgers Relays.
Joining Peterson on teh 6,000 team are Paul Kinyon, Bill Ledder and IC4A indoor mile champion Kevin Byrne. Kinyon battled Villanova's Don Paige on almost even terms at Rutgers and, with Wildcat ace Mark Belger committed to other races, there is reason to believe Villanova is vulnerable.
The Wildcats figure to keep their distance medley, sprint medley and 3,200-meter titles, however. The distance medley is the feature of today's program and Villanova has won it 12 years in a row.
"If Peterson was 100 percent he could maybe stay close," said Lang. Howard never has won a relay championship at Penn, but Coach Bill Moultrie is optimistic about the chances of his 1,600-meter team of Reggie Sojourner, Zack Jones, Richard Massey and Michael Archie.
"It's going to be a dog fight. Reggie has improved tremendously on the leadoff leg and that should be a big plus for us," Moultrie said.
H. D. Woodson of Washington defends its high school 1,600-meter relay title without graduated anchorman. William Contee, who will be running today for Florida's Santa Fe Community College in the junior college 1,600.
Best of the individual events is the high jump, matching Franklin Jacobs and Dwight Stones. Although in separate divisions for prize purposes, they will be competing head to head tomorrow.