Renaldo (Skeets) Nehemiah, the top-ranked hurdler in the world, said yesterday he definitely is not dropping out of the University of Maryland and will run in the CYO-M Club Invitational track meet next Friday at Cole Field House.
Nehemiah specifically denied reports he was leaving school this semester and said he has been training at Maryland the last two weeks, since recovering from a bout with bronchitis.
"I'm in good shape considering I was real sick for about two months," Nehemiah said. "I'm still a bit congested and nasal but I feel good. I won't run with the team Saturday in Richmond, but I will be out there for the CYO.
"When the people see me, they'll know I plan to be around. That'll put an end to the questions about what I plan to do," he said. "Psychologically, the CYO meet is good for me. I enjoy running in that meet. The Maryland people don't get very many opportunities to see me run so I want to put on a good performance. I will go out to win."
Reports that Nehemiah would withdraw from school began at a press conference held to promote the U.S. Olympic Invitational track meet at New York's Madison Square Garden Jan. 19.
"At that time, he (Nehemial) was very sick and there some doubt about him competing in indoor track," said Terrapin Coach Frank Costello. "We weren't trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. But there was never any talk between Skeets and me about his dropping out of school.
"Skeets is a controversial person because he is a celebrity. He came on the scene so fast and has a lot going for him," Costello said. "He's a private type of person and likes to keep to himself. But he's a team-oriented person and likes to run. He's proud to be a part of Maryland."
Nehemiah is the world-record holder in the 110-meter hurdles and holds several indoor marks. He won the gold medal in the Pan American Games last summer and is favored to win the event at the Olympics in Moscow this year.
"I'm building toward the Olympics. I won't run in many indoor meets this year," Nehemiah said. "I've won some big ones nationally but the Olympic meet is worldwide."
Nehemiah said there is a distinct possibility he might not run at Maryland his senior year.
"If I won the gold medal, it might take me six months to come down off my high," said the 20-year-old junior. "But even if I didn't run for the school, I wouldn't stop going to school. I'd stay in shape, maybe run some AAU.
"My major ir radio-TV and if I got an opportunity for a job in my senior year, I'd take it. Then I couldn't run because the NCAA forbids athletes holding full-time jobs. But I wouldn't turn down any good opportunity. That would be the only reason I wouldn't run for Maryland."
Nehemiah declared there is no friction between him and Costello.
"There are no problems between us," Nehemiah said without any hesitation. "We get along fine. Even if there was, it wouldn't make me stop running or quit school."
Costello said that he and Nehemiah have discussed what meets he will enter in the indoor season and that they enjoy a "pleasant" coach-athlete relationship.
"We sat down and discussed what meets to compete in. Both of our No. 1 priorities are to be ready for the Olympics," said Costello. "My oblibation is to him. This opportunity doesn't come often and we're looking forward to this summer. Right now, it's up to him what he runs before that time."
Nehemiah's teammates laughed at the talk that he was leaving school.
"I didn't believe it," said Terrapin sprinter Andre Lancaster. At first, I thought there was something he didn't tell us. Then I thought again and I knew he would be here."
Greg (Fly) Robertson, Maryland's other world-class hurdler, ventured "If there was something happening, he'd tell what the deal was. We're close friends and the team is close. I just ignored it when I heard about it."
Nehemiah said that in these past two weeks he has been running but has not had any hurdle or speed work.
"Today will be my first day on the hurdles. I'll work about two hours," he said. "Next week, I'll do my speed work. It doesn't take too long to get ready.
"I don't want to get beat here, but I'm not going to put pressure on myself."