They billed it as the "Magnificent Mile" at the Meet of Champions today and former Villanova runner Eamonn Coghlan won it in an upset of 3:52.9, the fastest mile in the world this year.
But Mary Decker's effort in the women's mile may have been more magnificent. She broke Francie Larriue's 2-year-old American record in 4.23.5, a time that surpassed the accepted world record, but is 1.4 seconds slower than the pending mark set by Romania's Natalia Maracescu.
Meanwhile, University of Maryland hurdler Renal- do [Skeets] Nehemiah was hardly affected by the jet lag of returning from his successful European tour, easily whipping the field in his 110-meter speciality in 13.3. He set the world record of 13.0 in May.
Decker's effort represented the only official world record surpassed in today's meet at the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field.
In the men's mile, world record holder John Walker of New Zealand finished a disappointing fourth in 3:55.
Even though Coghlan, the indoor mile record holder, won handily over Walker and second-place finisher Steve Scott [3:53.4], he was not ready to claim to be the world's best miler.
"walker will be the best miler in the world until 1980," Coghlan said. "Winning the Olympic Games makes athletes the best in the world. I'm the best today but tomorrow it may be somebody else.
Sydney Maree of South Africa, a world-class athlete in the mile, was present, but did not participate because of political reasons, having withdrawn earlier in the week. He attends school at Villanova.
It didn't always look good for Coghlan today.
Paul Cummings took the early lead after a quater-mile at a fast pace of 57.2. Scott led after 800 meters and looked to be in gook shape for the victory until Coghlan put on a burst of speed to assume the lead midway in the final lap.
Decker, 20, who defeated the favored Larrieu today, said she wasn't too disappointed about not breaking the pending record by Maracescu. It was Laurrieu's first loss this year.
"there's no doubt I can break it in the future," she said. "I lost a little bit in the third lap and that cost me the record. But since I didn't break it, it leaves something to strive for.
Decker, from Eugene, Ore., said she will drop out of classes at the university of Colorado to concentrate full time in preparation for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
Wind gust of up to 20 mph may have hurt both Decker's and Coghlan's chances for seeting world records.
"the wind was quite strong against us on the backstraight," Coghlan said. "It may have slowed our times somewhat."
In the 110-meter hurdles, Nehemiah pulled away from the seven other runners after the second hurdle.
Greg Foster of UCLA dropped out after four hurdles because of an injured left ankle.
Nehemiah said that he felt no real need to break his world record. He said he's concentrating on trying to "keep from getting hurt and staying at my peak; 1980 is it for me."
The wind may have also played a significant factor in the 100-meter women's dash. American record holder Evelyn Ashford won in 11:42, not close to her best effort of 10:97 set two weeks ago. Despite the slow time, Ashford had little trouble turning back the field of seven, including second-seeded Valerie Briscoe of Los Angeles.
Ashford was the meet's only double winner, coming back to take the women's 400 in 51.97.
The closest race came in the men's 100-meters as Auburn's Harvey Glance broke the tape in 10:32. He was shadowed by Eddie Hart and Steve Riddick [10:39]. Houston McTear, who once held claim to being the "world's fastest human," finished sixth at 10:49.
Dennis Ivory of Maryland won the triple jump in 54-10 1/2. Nate Cooper of Villanova finished second.
Most of the crowd of 5,000 had started home bofore Benn Fields of Philadelphia captured the high jump at 73 3/4 over two-time AUU champion Franklin Jacobs, of Fairleigh Dickinson.
Dwight Stones, former world high-jump record holder who has been declared ineligible to compete in amatuer events, jumped after the competition was completed. His best jump was seven feet.
Other winners were: Frank Estes, men's pole vault, 17-6; Rich Graybehl, men's intermediate hurdles, 50.65; While Smith, men's 400 meters, 45.77; Matt Controwitz, men's 5,000 meters, 13:21.0; James Robinson, men's 800 meters, 1:46.6; James Gilke, men's 200 meters, 20.51; Patti Dunlap, women's 200 meters, 23.34. CAPTION: Pictural, Hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah heads for tape in Meet of Champions. Pictures 2 and 3, eamonn Coghlan, top, runs fastest mile of year then accepts good wishes from politically banned Sydney Maree of South Africa AP