Although finishing second overall behind TexasEl Paso, Villanova today joined Renaldo Nehemiah in supplying the memorable moments of the 58th NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Don Paige, America's great hope for the 1,500 meters in Moscow, won both that event and the 800 meters 35 minutes apart, completing a double accomplished only by Villanova's Ron Delany in 1958.
South African Sydney Maree, destined to be a victim of Olympic politics, sprinted through the last quarter in 52.2 seconds and set a meet-record 13:20.63 in the 5,000 meters.
Probably the most amazing performance, however, was the winning effort of Nate Cooper in the triple jump. Cooper leaped 56 feet 1 1/4 inches on his final attempt to pluck away a gold medal that seemed consigned to Maryland's Dennis Ivory.
Only one person - Ivory - doubted his becoming Maryland's fourth NCAA gold medalist after he turned in a remarkable 55-3, a full 13 inches over his previous best, on his second attempt. Not even Cooper could believe his effort, which added 19 3/4 inches to his best previous jump.
"I could see a 55-foot jump in my range, but that 56 was really unexpected," Cooper said. "Dennis' 55-3 amazed, really amazed me. By the time of the finals I had almost conceded. I was ready to settle for second."
Ivory developed a twitch in his right thigh warming up before the final. It cramped up as he came down the runway for his fourth jump, forcing him to pass his fifth while a trainer worked out a knot. He was ready to make a final try, on which he cramped again, because he expected Cooper, a Georgia native who lives in Washington, D.C., to pull ahead.
"I knew that Maryland omen would catch up with me," Ivory said. "We were talking about that before the meet, how Maryland seniors always finish second at the NCAA. A1 Hamlin was second in the decathlon and Brian Melly in the high jump and there were others before them. So I knew somebody would beat me out. I just didn't know when, but when it came down to Nate I figured that would be it.
"I'm happy to get that jump, though. Everybody wants to win, but everything serves a purpose. We were hampered by bad weather the last few weeks, then we came out here and the runway was real fast and quick, and things went pretty well."
Things went very well for Paige, one of the strongest middle distance runners this country has developed. He was aided by the failure of the 1,500 field to set a faster pace, enabling him to save just enough to pull out the 800 against much tougher competition.
Paige was timed in 3:39.20 as he came from sixth approaching the last turn to jog in ahead of Baylor's Todd Harbour in the 1,500. Then he clocked 1:48.18 in rallying from fifth down the stretch to score a six-yard decision over Western Michigan's Jack McIntosh in the 800. Defending champion Peter Lemashon of UTEP faded to fifth.
"I was dying in the 800," Paige said. "I was feeling so bad on the backstretch I figured I had nothing to lose. But I knew I'd go through pain running the two races so close together. If the field had wanted to beat me in the 1,500, they should have gone out faster."
Maree cannot compete in the Olympics or other major international meets because his nation is banned, so he has made the most of his collegiate opportunities. He was helped today when Texas-El Paso Coach Ted Banks withdrew Suleiman Nyambui and Mike Musyoki, the one-two finishers in Friday's 10,000 meters, because UTEP already had wrapped up team honors with 64 points. Villanova finished with 48.
Greg Foster of UCLA, who pulled up after shattering a hurdle in Friday's loss to Nehemiah, redeemed himself with a decisive 200-meter victory in 20.22 seconds. At least he redeemed himself to everyone but Greg Foster.
Henry Rono, the world-record holder representing Washington State, had an easy time retaining his 3,000-meter steeplechase title in 8:17.92, as fellow Kenyans Amos Korir of Villanova and Hillary Tuwei of Richmond grabbed the other medals. Georgetown freshman John Gregorek, the pace setter for three laps, was 10th in 8:41.
Nat Page of Missouri captured the high jump at 7-4 1/2 as defending champion Franklin Jacobs of Fairleigh Dickinson had difficulty with his steps and went no higher than 7-1. Mike Corbin of Maryland also cleared 7-1 and was in the pit with an apparent clearance at 7-2 1/4 when the bar dropped on him.