Alfred Hitchcock couldn't have created better suspense. After 20 events, the 102nd IC4A outdoor track and field championships came down to one race: The 1600-meter relay.
Maryland, which had the amazing Renaldo Nehemiah on the anchor had 90 points. Villanova, missing two of its starters from the foursome that owned the best time in the country, had 89.
The Terps - Gerg (Fly) Robertson (47.1 seconds), Mark Fields (47.4), Andre Lancaster (46.3), and Nehemiah (46.7) - set a school record 3:07.5) running their best time of the season by more than a second. But it wasn't enough.
Villanova, running in the "slow" - seeded section because of its third place qualifying performanace, used Canadian Olympian Glenn Bogue's 45.1 anchor to blaze to a meet record 3:04.5, tying the fastest time ever, in any competition, by an IC4A school, to edge Maryland for the team title, 99-98.
"Soon as they ran 3:04. I was packing my stuff," said Frank Costello, the Maryland coach. "I knew it was over then. My guys set a new school record. I can't ask them to do more than that. I have nobody to yell at."
Nehemiah, the freshman from Scotch Plains, N.J., won the 100 meters in 10.18 and the 110-meter hurdles in 13.6. Both efforts would have set meet records except for excess aiding wind.
But in yesterday's first race - Nehemiah's fifth of the nine he would run inside 28 hours - he didn't have his normal lift at the finish, and Maryland's Penn Relay 400-meter relay champions were upset by Cornell by 5/100th of a second. The winners (39.91) set a meet record.
"If I had been loose, it would have been no sweat," Nehemiah said. "I was fighting myself. If couldn't lift. All these races are tough on the body. I know I could have beat that guy (Cornell anchorman Neal Hall), because I beat him in the 100."
Nehemiah's 100 time is one of the fastest in the country this year. Unoffically, only Auburn Olympian Harvey Glance (10.17) has gone faster.
"James Brown (of Penn.) pulled even, and all of a sudden, skeets had a sixth gear," Costello said. "That 10.18 is like a 9.2 100 (yards). Skeets continues to amaze me. He has great ablility that he doesn't even know he has."
"That 10.18 is why Nehemiah is going to break the world high hurdle record," said Dave Hemery, the Boston University coach who won the 1968 Olympic gold medal in the intermediate hurdles.
Robertson also ran nine races for Maryland. He successfully defended his 400 intermediate hurdle title in 50.94. But he was third in the high hurdles - a race he won last year.
Maryland also lost possible scoring opportunities in the 200 meters when Lancaster, the Atlantic Coast Conference champ, did not advance to the final; in the 400, when Fields placed eight; in the 5000, when early leader Dave Cornwell dropped to 10th; in the javelin, when Tim Ulam did not place, and in the pole vault, when Mark Remus no-heighted and frosh Dan Lamp went out at 15-5 3/4.
Terrapin long jump winner Bob Calhoun, who won the IC4A indoor 60 final, was not in yesterday's 100 final because of a cramp.
But Costello fingered Georgetown's Kevin Byrne and metric milers from 106 other schools for Maryland's defeat. Byrne, a freshman who won the IC4A indoor mile, was a very distant ninth and last yesterday as Don Paige (3:45.2) led an unprecedented 1-2-3-4 Villanova 1500-meter sweep.
"You can't tell me that from 107 schools, there's not another runner better then Villanova's fourth-best miler" exclaimed Costello. "Kevin Byrne - they talk about Georgetown's great distance program. I can't ask any more. But where are the rest of the IC4A schools."
On the bright side for Maryland, Brian Melly (7-1 3/4) took second in the high jump to Fairleigh Dickinson's Franklin Jacobs (7-5 3/4, three misses at an outdoor world mark 7-8-1/4). And Dennis Invory, who sailed past 26 feet for the first time in his college career Saturday, uncorked a career-best 53-8 triple jump for second place, pushing Villanova's Nate Cooper to a meet record 53-11 3/4.
Senior Mark Belger provided Villanova with its other win, clocking 1:46.8 in the 400 meters. Boston University's Glenn, a British Olympian, unseated Villanova's two-time winner Tim Dale in the 400 meters, setting a meet record (45.49). But Villanovans finished 2-3-4 in that race.