Athletes mushed to Cole Field House from all points of the compass last night to try to set world records on the bouncy board track. The only one who succeeded was Renaldo Nehemiah, who merely left his dormitory room and skidded across the Maryland campus.
Nehemiah, the precocious sophomore from Scotch Plains, N.J., lowered his world indoor record for the 60-yard high hurdles by five-hundredths of a second, to 7.02.
Thomas Wessinghage, the European record holder from West Germany, whipped a strong mile field in 3:57.2, which would have been a meet record a year ago but proved disappointing to the 6,112 fans in light of Dick Buerkle's 3:54.9 world record here in 1978.
Mark Belger, coughing throughout the half mile, earned a gutty victory over Mark Enyeart, but his time of 1:48.9 was a full second off Ralph Doubell's world mark, Belger's target for the night.
The 500 and 600 produced close, exciting finishes. Olympian Herman Frazier continued his domination of the 500 by wiping out a 10-yard deficit on the final lap and nipping Leighton Priestley in 56.4. Stan Vinson's long legs cut down Fred Sowerby in the final strides for a satisfying 600 win over Vinson's former coach in 1:09.7.
Folks delayed by the icy roads missed the principal excitement, because Nehemiah's effort came early, in the second final of the night. Anybody who turned to talk to a neighbor could have missed it, too, so swiftly did Nehemiah tear down the straightaway. The race was decided at the first of the five hurdles.
Nehemiah, third here last year despite his status as the world's No. 1 hurdler, was gaining revenge on fourtime winner Larry Shipp, who fell in the final.
"Yes, it was more or less revenge," Nehemiah said. "This track is so fast that last year I just smashed into hurdles. Deep down, I thought this was the place to set the record. But I still haven't run that perfect race. I'm still sloppy, letting my trail leg get behind me."
Nehemiah smashed the first hurdle while winning his heat in 7.15, and in the final he "basically concentrated on getting over the first hurdle smoothly and getting back into my hurdles pattern."
Third in the final in 7.39, after winning his heat, was Maryland's Greg (Fly) Robertson. He was running with a pin in his right ankle, broken in a summer automobile accident in Europe.
Wessinghage zipped past pace-setting Paul Cummings with 80 yards remaining in the mile and went on to win by six yards, as Villanova's Amos KipKorir and Wisconsin's Steve Lacy also broke four minutes. Marty Liquori was an outclassed sixth.
"This was my first race since September and I took it easy at the start to see what the other guys would do," Wessinghage said. "After a few laps, I found my rhythm and there was no point in the race where I came into serious trouble."
Belger charged past Enyeart with 1 1/2 laps left in the 880, then was forced to hang on to win by a yard. Belger went wide down the stretch to try to force Enyeart wide, but the Olympian cut inside, instead, and came close.
"I didn't know what to do," Belger said. "I swung wide out of the last turn figuring he'd try to go wide.I was hoping to break the record tonight, but I've got such a bad cold that I have to be happy with winning."
Most events were hurt by the absence of athletes who couldn't make it through the snow. In one case, however, a change dictated by another form of caution.
Ellen Wessinghage, Tom's wife, is a good distance runner but she was an also-ran behind Charlotte Bradley in the 880 because she was advised not to compete against Francie Larrieu in the mile.
Ellen Wessinghage, Tom's wife, is a good distance runner, but she was an also-ran behind Charlotte Bradley's meet-record 2:06.6 in the unfamiliar 880, after she was advised not to compete against Francie Larrieu in the mile.
Larrieu, suspended last year for accepting "Superstars" money, was reinstated by the AAU when she gave it back. However, her situation is still cloudy internationally and Wessinghage, although no longer a serious competitor, decided to duck the issue.
Larrieu won by 90 yards in 4:29.7, 1.2 seconds off her world indoor record.
"It was only my second race in eight months and I was a little bit frightened when we went through the first 400 in 66 seconds," Larrieu said. "But I've trained harder than ever before in my life and I got through it OK. I just wish I'd gone a little faster and gotten that record."
Benita Fitzgerald, the high school star from Gar-Field, set an electronically timed meet record of 7.95 in edging Olympic high jumper Paula Girven in the women's 60-yard hurdles.
Oscar Moore, 40-year-old track coach at Glassboro (N.J.) State, set an American record of 4:24.4 for the masters mile, age 40 and over.