When they lined up for the trials of the 110-meter high hurdles at the 85th Penn Relays today, announcer Jack O'Reilly said, "How do you introduce this man? He's done it all-Skeets Nehemiah."
Unfortunately for the embarrassed O'Reilly, the one thing Nehemiah, the world record holder in that event, did not try today was hurdling. But he introduced himself to the rain-reduced crowd with scoring 200-meter and 400-meter relay legs that raised Maryland's hopes for a triple on Saturday.
Nehemiah clocked a 45.1 second leg for the Terrapins' 1,600-meter quartet, which trailed Arizona State by two yards in 3:09.0. His second leg for the 800-meter group, running in lane three, was so swift that he had overhauled all but one of the staggered-start outsiders by the time he passed the baton at the halfway point. Maryland's time of 1:24.0 was equal best in the trials with that of Louisiana State.
Maryland is virtually conceded a title in the shuttle-hurdles relay, where trials were canceled because heavy rain made the AstroTurf course dangerous.
Georgetown also is looking forward to a victory Saturday, in the 6,000-meter relay. It settled for third place behind Villanova in today's featured distance-medley event.
The Hoyas received maximum performances from Aubrey McKithen (1:49.9 for 800), Keith Royster (46.5 for 400) and Jim DeRienzo (2:54.7 for 1,200), but that still left them five yards behind the Wildcats entering the anchor, 1,600.
Sophomore Kevin Byrne managed a 4:03 windup, but he was no match for South African Sydney Maree. He ran a controlled 3:59.3 to a 10-yard victory over Arizona's Thom Hunt. Hunt came from far back to take the lead, and he had an excellent 3:56.1 split. But he used up too much in the effort and was unable to hold off Maree's kick over the last 100 yards.
Navy enjoyed one of its best days at the Relays, setting a meet record of 3:11.5 for the Heptagonal 1,600-meter event. The Mids' quartet was composed of Bruce Prutzman (48.1), Jim Sheairs (48.3), Pat Bailey (47.9) and Jeff Colvin (47.2). Navy also posted creditable times of 41.8 for the 400 relay and 1:27.2 for the 800 relay.
Once Nehemiah steps on the track, however, all else pales. He is supposedly running 400 meters for conditioning, but nobody ran the distance faster today, and when he accelerated around the last turn the crowd gasped. He was dissatisfied, of course, because Maryland placed second.
"This is just my second mile relay of the year, so I didn't quite know how to run it," Nehemiah said.
Villanova had the fastest time for the event, 3:08.5.
Coach Frank Costello decided to move Nehemiah to the anchor leg of the 800 Saturday. Costello was contemplating a similar shift in the 1,600, since freshman Chris Person was overhauled by Arizona State's Gerard Burl while using some unwise tactics.
"I was trying to go out fast and hold on," Person conceded. "I'll do the opposite tomorrow, go out slow and come in hard."
Person, after holding his own through seven of the 10 hurdles, was blown out by Auburn's James Walker in the 400-meter intermediate event. Walker set a meet record of 49.50 and Person, runner-up in the heat in 51.34, was shunted to fourth in the overall standings.
In Nehemiah's absence, teammate Greg Robertson qualified for the high hurdles final in 14.20.
A poor baton pass cost D.C. International the open women's 400 relay, the Brooklyn Atoms winning by two yards in 47.3.
Bo Parker, a Landon School senior, had the outstanding performance among Washington-area schoolboys, placing third in the two-mile run in 9:09.9.
Five Washington-area schools won 400-meter relay heats, but none was fast enough to qualify for Saturday's final. Fairmont Heights, anchored by Michael McEaddy, had the best time, 43.0. Other winners were Fort Hunt (43.1), H.D. Woodson (43.4), Ballou (43.7) and Central (44.5). Springarn clocked 43.9 in third place.
Vince Draddy of Iona Prep of New Rochelle, N.Y., who will enter Virginia in the fall, won the mile easily in 4:09.3.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase was timed in 9:10.4 for the high school girls' 3,200-meter relay, which would have beeen a national record two days ago. As it was, B-CC placed third and William Penn of Philadelphia won in a national record 8:59.7.