Renaldo Nehemiah and Greg Robertson got off on the right foot today in the National AAU Track and Field Championships, but Nehemiah has a problem.
Both Maryland hurdlers qualified for Saturday's final in the 110 highs. Nehemiah, however, was in obvious pain each time he came down on his right foot.
After winning his quarterfinal in a mediocre, for him, 13.88 and semifinal in 13.30, Nehemiah huddled with a veteran hurdles coach, Dick Hill, the man who handled Willie Davenport and Rod Milburn.
"Every time I come down on my right foot, it hurts," Nehemiah said. "It makes me rock back. It feels like the spike is going right through my foot. The track is hard and I know I'm popping up, but the way my foot is hurting, I can't help it."
Eleven months ago, Robertson's right ankle was crushed in an automobile accident in Finland. But he has come back in remarkable style and even plans to try out for Maryland's football team in the fall, as a wide receiver.
"I just wanted to make the final, so I could be on TV," Roberston said. "I kind of got left in the semifinal. They were going when I looked up. I was just hoping to get fourth. Second was a bonus." He won his preliminary.
The handful of finals produced some remarkable results, and that of 18-year-old Mary Shea of Raleigh was the most noteworthy. She held off Boston Marathon winner Joan Benoit to take the 10,000 meters in the American record time of 32:52.5. It was the third fastest women's 10,000 ever.
Shea was running in the cool of the evening. Nine hours earlier, Marco Evoniuk of the Colorado Track Club overcame heat measured at 112 degrees on the course to post the second fastest time by an American, 4 hours 10 minutes 33 seconds, in the 50-kilometer walk.
Sue Brodock regained her status as America's top women's walker by destroying the field in the 5,000-meter event. Georgetown's Chris Shea, who had beaten Brodock indoors, left the track in tears at the halfway point while walking in third place.
The first day of the three-day competition was largely devoted to reducing the fields for more intense competition Saturday and Sunday. But some familiar names of days past took the opportunity to grab the spotlight.
Eddie Hart, the sprinter best known for failing to get to the starting line at Munich, led the quarterfinals of the 100 meters with a time of 10.28 seconds. Houston McTear, his left hamstring tightly wrapped, advanced along with Steve Williams and Steve Riddick.
Al Oerter, the Olympic discuss champion four times from 1956 through 1968, qualified for Saturday's final with a throw of 205 feet 11 inches, moving up along with the 1976 Olympic winner, Mac Wilkins (212-2).
Madeline Manning, the 1968 Olympic 800-meter champion, breezed into Saturday's semifinals of that event with an easy 2:05.5. Joining her were Washington's first Robin, Robin Campbell (2:05.4), and Georgetown's Chris Mullen (2:05.8).
Deby LaPlante set an American record of 13.07 in the semifinals of the 100-meter hurdles, after clocking a wind-aided 12.99 quarterfinal that "sent chills through my body when they announced the time." Her chief challenger, Candy Young, set a world junior record of 13.13 in her semifinal.
Edwin Moses and Mike Shine, the happy heroes of Montreal, advanced to Saturday's semifinal in the 400-meter hurdles, but Ralph Mann, the 1972 Munich silver medalist, failed in his comeback attempt.
Cliff Wiley of D.C. International reached the semifinals of both the 100 and 200 meters, while teammate John Christian won his 200 quarterfinal. Fred Sowerby (46.67) and Maurice Peoples (46.28) reached the 400 semifinals, but Peoples was forced to ice down an inflamed Achilles tendon.
Jim DeRienzo (1:51.1) and Aubrey McKithen (1:48.6) of Georgetown and Greg Canty of Virginia (1:51.2) advanced to the 800 semifinals. Bob Calhoun of Maryland qualified for the long-jump final at 25-8 1/4 and the Terrapins' Mike Corbin reached the high-jump final by clearing 7-0 3/4.
Benita Fitzgerald of Gar-Field High gained the 100-meter hurdles final with a time of 13.77 Liz Young of the University of D.C. won her 200-meter quarterfinal in 23.43. Liz Hatz (53.79) and Freida Nichols (54.27) advanced to the 400 semifinal along with Largo's Paulette Clagon (54.62). D.C. International qualified for the 1,600-meter relay final in 3:44.40.