Mark Belger will have outstanding competition to press him Friday night in his announced assault on the world indoor 880-yard record during the 12th National Invitational meet at Cole Field House.
The 1:47.9 standard of Australia's Ralph Doubell has survived 10 years, a rarity in track and field, and Villanova graduate Belger says it is time it disappeared.
Belger came close a year ago, clocking an American indoor mark of 1:48.1. He was not pushed, however, and gave away his chance for a world record by looking back at the final turn for a glimpse of runner-up Mark Enyeart's position.
Olympian Enyeart will be back, fresh from a 1:09.0 clocking for 600 yards on the over-sized track at Pocatello, Idaho.
Others in the high-powered field include Villanova undergraduate Don Paige, NCAA indoor 1,000-yard champion; Kenyan Peter Lemashon of Texas-El Paso, the NCAA outdoor 800-meter king, and James DiRienzo, a recent transfer from Fordham to Georgetown.
Gerry McGee, the new meet director, considers the 880 the highlight of a competition that shows its usual depth and talent despite the retirement of Bob Comstock, who had nursed it from its birth in D.C. Armory.
Franklin Jacobs, the 5-8 "slopper" who leaped 7-6 a year ago and lost, is an odds-on favorite to win this time. His principal challengers are Maryland graduate Brian Melly and 1976 winner Glen Irion, in top form off a 7-3 clearance a week ago.
Canada's Debbie Brill, second here behind Joni Huntley's American indoor mark of 6-3 last year, is the class of the women's field with Huntley injured. Olympian Paula Girven of Maryland and pentathlete Jane Frederick, America's woman track athlete of the year, are the principal contenders.
Frederick and miler Francie Larrieu have been reinstated by the AAU after returning the Superstars earnings that prompted their suspensions. However, their status internationally is still in doubt, so Brill and West German miler Ellen Wessinghage are likely to receive last-minute warnings from the International Amateur Athletics Federation before they compete against them.
Wessinghage's husband, Thomas the European mile record holder, will be in the men's 11-lap field, along with Marty Liquori, seemingly around forever although only 29; Steve Lacy, who clocked 4:00.0 in a recent workout; South African Sydney Maree of Villanova and Paul Cummings, third behind Buerkle in 4:00.2 a year ago.
Herman Frazier, the class of 500-yard runners, defends his title in that event against Willie Smith of Auburn, NCAA indoor 440 winner, and Canadian champion Bruce Roberts of Wisconsin.
Stan Vinson, the 600 winner a year ago who dominated that event on the indoor circuit, will be out to avenge a beating by his former coach, Fred Sowerby of D.C. International, last week in Saskatoon, Saskathewan. Villanova's Anthony Tufariello will challenge them.
Mike Tully, who holds all the world pole vault marks, is the defender in that crowd-pleasing event. McGee has limited the field to four, with Earl Bell, Dan Ripley and Charles Brown the challengers.
The three men who produced that hairline hurdles finish a year ago are back -- perennial champion Larry Shipp, first in 713; James Walker of Auburn, second in 7.14, and indoor record holder Renaldo Nehemiah of Maryland, third in 7.14.
Jennifer Whitfield, a Villanova freshman from Washington, will try to win the women's 60 one year after she captured that event in the high school meet held in conjunction with the National Invitational.
Washington's Robin Campbell, a student at Santa Fe Community College in Florida, returns to run the 880 against Kathy Weston and Karol Jones.
The addition of Navy adds interest to the always hotly contested Metropolitan Mile Relay, where Maryland is favored to unseat Howard.