It is still known as the Penn Relay Carnival, despite cynic's suggestion that it be renamed the Villanova Relays, and the 85th edition promises some memorable moments today and Saturday on Philadelphia's Franklin Field.
Villanova, which won an unprecedented five of the eight major relay events here a year ago, will defend those five this weekend and for the 25th straight year is certain to win at least one. Georgetown and Maryland will be among the dissidents determined to prevent the Wildcats from cashing another five-spot.
Georgetown will challenge Villanova's strength in the distance medley, 6,000 meters and 3,200 meters. Maryland will disturb a somewhat more vulnerable den of Wildcats in the 1,600, while trying to add the 800 and shuttle-hurdles titles, where Villanova is not entered.
Villanova will be seeking its 14th straight success in the distance medley, today's feature, and only the Hoyas from the Hilltop are causing any concern for Villanova Coach Jumbo Elliott and his veterans.
Freshman Aubrey McKithen (800), senior Keith Royster (400), junior transfer Jim DeRienzo (1,200) and sophomore Kevin Byrne (1,600) will challenge Villanova counterparts Mike England, Alfred Graves, Don Paige and Syd Maree.
DeRienzo, Byrne, John Gregorek and Bill Ledder, who set in American record in the 6,000 at the Dogwood Relays, have a shot at the title Saturday, and DeRienzo, Byrne, Ledder and McKithen figure to give the 3,200 a good try. Coah Joe Lang, however, advises caution before giving the caterer a deposit.
"We're a little better off than a year ago, but they're loaded," Lang said. "They're unbelievable. We've got young kids, while they're long on experience. We've got to be perfect and they've got to be a little off."
All of the Wildcats in the 6,000 are four-minute milers, including South African Maree, Canadian Dean Childs aind Kenyan Amos Korir, Paige is one of America's finest middle-distance runners.
Renaldo Nehemiah, the world's greatest hurdler, has passed up the individual honors he won last year to concentrate on the three relays. It is still a sore point with the Terrapins that they lost the shuttle-hurdles championship on a disputed disqualification in 1978, the judges ruling that Nehemiah left too soon on the last leg.
"We're going to use taps-hitting each guy's shoulder," said Maryland Coach Frank Costello. "I believe they'll break the world record.
Southern University set the mark of 55.6 in 1977. The Terrapins were clocked in 55.8 a year ago and the quartet of Nehemiah, Greg Robertson, Chris Person and Don Berich is somewhat stronger.
Maryland won the 400 last year, ending an eight-year drought among Washington-area colleges, but this time the Terrapins will concentrate on the 800 (Bob Calhoun, Andre Lancaster, Darryl Bryant and Nehemiah) and the 1,600 (Mark Fields, Nehemiah, Bryant and Person).
Louisiana State, Michigan, Tennessee and Santa Fe Community College of Gainesville, Fla., anchored by McKinley High grad Barry Tolliver, figure to give Maryland its chief competition in the 800. Besides Villanova, 1,600 contenders include LSU, Santa FeCC, Arizona State, Manhattan and Tennessee.
In the Shuttle-hurdles, the talented Terrapins need fear only the officials and themseleves.
Nehemiah is skipping the individual hurdles, according to Costello, "to get him real strong through a variety of events rather than go stale in the hurdles. Also, competition is advantageous to him."
Nehemiah will face Alejandro Casanas and Greg Foster in the Pepsi Invitational meet at Lost Angeles May 6.
Shot-putter Ian Pyka defends his individual title Saturday, while fellow Terrapins Dennis Ivory and Bob Calhoun are among the favorites in the horizontal jumps.
D.C. International resumes its spirited rivalry with the Philadelphia Pioneers in the Olympic Development 1,600-meter relay.
Today's program begins at 11:30 a.m., while Saturday's activity commences at 9 a.m.