The National Invitational indoor track meet, noted for its fast times and foul weather, marks its 12th addition tonight at Cole Field House. The forecast calls for more of the same.
A highly competitive field led by Marty Liquori threatens the world indoor mile record of 3:54.9, set at Cole by Kick Buerkle one year ago. Mark Belger has promised to junk the 10-year-old world indoor mark for a half mile. And the weatherman says the skies will disgorge some white stuff, as usual.
Somehow, despite the hideous weather that has hounded the meet, the athletes manage to show up. Gerry McGee, who has relieved founding father Bob Comstock as meet director, arrived last year in a wheelchair, less than three months after he nearly died in an auto accident.
"My wife had to drive me down and wheel me in," McGee said. "If I could come, I didn't see why everybody else couldn't. But this year the forecast calls for just a sprinkle of snow and I don't see how we could possibly get hit by the kind of weather we had the last tow years."
McGee's statement recalled the optimism of an official of the cosponsoring Catholic Youth Organizatiom, who commented two years ago, in the face of adverse weather reports, "We're not worried. We have connections up there." That night there was a broken connection.
Those who come, weather or not, will see some of the great names of track and field: Franklin Jocobs, Mike Tully, Herman Frazier, Suleiman Nyambui, Michael Karst, Renaldo Nehemiah, Harvey Glance, Francie Larrieu.
Those who have followed the meet for some time will renew acquaintances with two outstanding Washington products: four-time hurdles champion Larry Shipp and Robin Campbell, recovered from the injuries that wrecked her Olympic quest in 1976 and plagued her again last winter.
Indoor meets are built around the glamorous mile and it will be hard to top Buerkle's record effort. Liquori, however, thinks it is possible, providing someone in the seven-man field is willing to set a swift pace.
The likely candidates for rabbit status are Auburn's John Tuttle, who doesn't figure to win any other way, and Matt Centrowitz, who has been known to sprint the first half.
Besides Liquori, America's best 5,000-meter man who has returned to his onetime specialty for speed work, the contenders include West German Thomas Wessinghage, the European record holder; Sydney Maree, a South African attending Villanova, Paul Cummings and Steve Lacy.
Cummings was just a stride behind John Walker's world indoor record of 3:37.4 for 1,500 meters a week ago and a similar effort tonight would send Buerkle's mark into oblivion.
Ralph Doubell's world indoor standard of 1:49.9 for 880 yards has stood since 1969, a rarity in a sport where records tumble with regularity. Belger thinks it is time the Aussie's mark went its inevitable way.
Belger set an American record of 1:48.1 here a year ago, losing his chance for wider recongnition when he turned to glance at his beaten opposition on the final turn.
Pressing Belger tonight will be Olympian Mark Enyeart, the runnerup last year; NCAA outdoor 800-meter champion Peter Lemashon of Kenya and Texas-El Paso, and NCAA indoor 1,000-yard king Don Paige of Villanova.
Jacobs, the 5-foot-8 high jumper who has cleared 7 feet 7 1/4 inches, made a big hit with Cole fans a year ago when he leaped 7-6, finishing second behind Greg Joy's since-eclipsed world mark of 7-7.
Jacobs features a distinctive style known as the "Jacobs Slope," which works wonders unless he happens to crack his knee against his head.
Tully is the pole vaulter who has gone higher than anyone else, both indoors and out. He will be trying for his third straight title at Cole, with Earl Bell providing the principal opposition. Dan Ripley, the meet record holder, withdrew because of a pulled muscle.
Frazier dominated the 500-yard enent here and everywhere last year and figures to do so again. He will be tested by Vilanova's Tim Dale and Bahamian Mike Sands, a Penn State product.
Nyambui, a Tanzanian attending Texas-El Paso, defends his two-mile title in a race dominated by foreign athletes. Barry Brown, the leading American entry, seems overmatched against Karst, the World Cup steeplechase champion from West Germany; Kenyan Mike Musyoki, the NCAA 10,000-meter winner from Texas-El Paso; Great Britain's Tony Staynings, and Kenyan steeplechaser Amos KipKorir, who attends Vilanova.
Shipp, James Walker and Nehemiah return for a rematch of last year's hurdles, in which only one-hundredth of a second separated the victorious Shipp and third-place Nehemiah.
Glance is the defender in the 60-yard dash, with Richmond's Jesse Williams back for another try at the title he lost in a photo finish a year ago.