Although seven champions were crowned on the first day of the NCAA Indoor Track Championships, none created half so much stir among the 6,000 fans in Cobo Arena as Renaldo Nehemiah, who was merely ruinning a quarterfinal in the 60-yard hurdles.
A false start reduced the field to four, running for four places in Saturday's semifinals. They could have hit every hurdle and fallen in between and still qualified. Yet Nehemiah danced over the barriers in a time of 6.94 seconds, which has been bettered by only one man -- Nehemiah.
Before tonight, the meet record was 7.11, set by Washington's Larry Shipp of Louisiana State in 1976 and matched by Nehemiah a year ago. In a preliminary heat, Nehemiah lowered that to 7.08, then destroyed it. The time was even more impressive in that there was no opportunity to beat the gun, because of the NCAA rule that requires disqualification for one false start.
"I took it easy last week and paid the price," said the Maryland sophomore, whose winning streak ended in an IC4A quarterfinal when he lost his concentration and failed to clear the final hurdle. "I'm going to run the race four times here. I want to be an all-round performer -- trials, semis and final. I'm going for a record in tomorrow's race."
Nehemiah was speaking of the world indoor record, which he holds at 6.89.
Asked if his IC4A mishap had occupied his thoughts this week, Nehemiah said, "A lot. It seems as though I haven't been in the race much. In the warmups, I've had to get back in the groove. But having had the past week off, my body has regrouped and gotten stronger. I've never run that fast before in any kind of preliminary."
Neither has anyone else -- in any kind of race.
While Nehemiah was electrifying both opposition and crowd, Maryland's hopes of a team title were disappearing. The toughest blow came in the long jump, where a disputed foul by Bob Calhoun cost him a shot at the championship.
Calhoun placed fourth, at 24 feet 10 1/2 inches, as Larry Myricks, the Olympian who broke his ankle at Montreal, prevailed at 25-10 3/4. But on his next-to-last jump, Calhoun landed just about where Myricks did, and fans sitting near the takeoff board objected loudly when an official belatedly raised his red flag.
"That was no foul," said Calhoun, who departed in anger without awaiting the awards ceremony. "It was about 25-8 or 25-9, the best I've felt on all my jumps. It took him awhile to put the flag up -- I was out of the pit and walking back when he raised it. Then when I asked him where I landed, he put his foot down and it wasn't even touching the blue line."
Maryland's Dennis Ivory, third after the triple-jump trials, could not better his 53-8 effort, finishing fifth as he was unable to straighten out his step. Robert Cannon of Indiana, who trailed Ivory in the afternoon, was the winner with a personal best of 54-8 1/4.
Maryland's Mike Corbin cleared 7 feet to gain Saturday's high jump final and Greg Robertson, besides pretending to be Calhoun at the awards ceremony, advanced to the hurdles semifinals. The Terrapins ran 3:18.36 to qualify for the mile-relay final. Chip McCarthy went out at 16-8 in the pole vault and freshman Chris Person was the only one of six heat winners who failed to reach the 600 final, where the fastest eight times advanced. Person cruised home in 1:11.88, only 11th best.
Georgetown broke even in two close decisions with the clock, moving its two-mile realy team into Saturday's final but falling victim to a change in the ground rules for the distance medley.
Originally, the first two teams in each relay heat were scheduled to gain the final. However, because of the difficulty of seeding on the basis of times made on tracks of various sizes, a last-minute decision was made to qualify each of the three heat winners plus the next four fastest times. The Hoyas (9:58.19) were the only second-place team that failed to make the distance medley final.
In the two-mile relay, Aubrey McKithen's third leg of 1:52.0 led the hoyas to another second place and this time their 7:38.2 was seventh best overall, just earning a final chance.
Greg Canty, the Virginia middle-distance star out of Broad Run High, easily won his 1,000-yard semifinal in 2:10.78 and challenges Villanova's Don Paige in one of Saturday's featured events.
Robert Bryant of Delaware State qualified for the 600 final in 1:10.93, but Navy's Jeff Colvin was an alsoran. Howard's Robert Brown was last in a preliminary hurdles heat.