While Renaldo Nehemiah and Houston McTear chase world records, the D.C. International Track Club will pursue the more modest goal of a men's team title today in the 91st National AAU Indoor Track and Field Championships at New York's Madison Square Garden.
"We're trying to win this thing primarily through the relays," said Coach Fred Sowerby, who in the past 10 days has competed in such divergent locales as London, England, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Sowerby will anchor a potent milerelay quartet that is likely to include Ed Preston, Maurice Peoples and Richard Massey.
The world record of 2:03.2 for the 1,180-yard sprint medley relay is within the reach of D.C. International's team of Kevin Price, 440; Preston and John Christian, 220 legs, and Cliff Wiley, who holds the indoor mark for his segment, 300 yards.
Reggie McAfee is the key figure in the D.C. club's two-mile relay effort. Additionally, Sowerby and Wiley are counted upon for points in the 600 and 60, respectively. The Philadelphia Pioneers are defending team champions.
Sowerby's duels with Stan Vinson in the 400-600 range have ben among the most hotly contested of the indoor season. Vinson was on top early, while Sowerby struggled with a hamstring problem, but Sowerby has prevailed in the Millrose Games, Ottawa and Winnipeg within the last two weeks.
"I feel confident," said Sowerby, the 1976-77 AAU champion who yielded the 600 crown to Vinson a year ago. "Even though we may not say much to each other, Stan and I have a friendly-type thing going. Stan is the reserved type and he doesn't say much. I'm more relaxed before a race.
"Our rivalry was more intense last year, because I had helped Stan obtain a job in Chicago and then he ran for somebody else (University of Chicago Track Club). I wanted to beat Stan last year, but I wasn't able to train properly and my conditioning suffered. Now we (D.C. International) help out at Maryland and we're in better shape, and I think Maryland has benefited, too, because their quartermilers are doing very well."
One Terrapin doing even better than "very well" is Nehemiah, who has shattered almost every indoor hurdles record this winter. He hopes to add two meet records, at least, before the weekend is over.
The AAU mark of 7.11 was set last year by Charles Foster in Nehemiah's absence. Nehemiah has not clocked a 60-yard time that slow all winter and has reduced the world record for the distance to 6.89.
Saturday, Nehemiah will compete on his home lumber at Cole Field House in the Atlantic Coast Conference championships. He holds the ACC record of 7.14, which does not offer much of a challenge, so he will probably also run the 60-yard dash.
McTear set the world indoor record of 6.04 seconds for the 60 in last year's AAU meet and has been virtually invincible indoors, where his uniformly fast start gives him a big edge over contenders like Steve Riddick and Steve Williams.
The mile features Steve Scott and Steve Lacy, both of whom went under the old world record in chasing Irishman Eamonn Coghlan to his 3:52.6 time in San Diego last week. Coghlan will be competing in the European championships this weekend but countrymen Niall O'Shaughnessy and Ray Flynn are in today's field, along with Wilson Waigwa of Kenya and out-of-shape Filbert Bayi of Tanzania.
Trying to break world records, as they have all winter, will be high jumper Franklin Jacobs, still dreaming of 7-9, and pole vaulter Dan Ripley, whose 18-5 3/4 clearance in Edmonton was voided by flexible bar supports.
Mark Belger, his three-year string of indoor 800-1,000 triumphs ended by Don Paige in the Millrose Games, will try to start another in the AAU 1,000, where his chief opposition will come from defending champion Gideon Terer. Georgetown's Jim DeRienzo is among the contenders.
Francie Larrieu and Jan Merrill renew their rivalry in the women's mile, where Larrieu edged Merrill by five yards last year in a meet-record 4:37.0. Merrill is also scheduled to run the two-mile, about 40 minutes earlier. She won both events in 1976.
Debbie Brill of Canada defends her title in the women's high jump, against a field that includes Maryland's Paula Girven and Jalene Chase.
Deby La Plante, who set the world indoor record of 7.53 for the 60-yard hurdles in the AAU meet a year ago, defends her title against Israeli Olympian Ester Rot and Pennsylvania high school sensation Candy Young.
The first two Americans in most events will be invited to compete against the Soviet Union in an indoor dual meet at Fort Worth, Tex., March 3.