The Philadelphia Track Classic, a shaky survivor of that endangered species, the major indoor track meet, fights Super Bowl fever tonight as it stages its 14th edition at the Spectrum.
With Washington's National Invitational and New York's Olympic Invitational off the schedule this winter, tonight's meet is one of only three major events left on the East Coast, along with the Feb. 6 Millrose Games and the Feb. 27 TAC Championships, both at Madison Square Garden.
Prohibitive costs are destroying all meets that lack corporate sponsorship and the city-backed classic here is, as usual, suffering at the entry box because of its low budget. Villanova athletes, students and old grads again have come to the rescue, with Wildcats dominating most of the running events.
To combat the football fever that has engulfed Philadelphia, the classic has enrolled super freshman running back Herschel Walker of national champion Georgia for its 60-yard field. He will encounter another speedster who belies his name, Maryland freshman Darren Walker, who clocked 6.24 seconds two weeks ago at Johnson City, Tenn. Houston sophomore Carl Lewis will be in the sprint field, too.
Renaldo Nehemiah faces two hot Rods in the 60-yard high hurdles, 1972 Olympic champion Rod Milburn and Villanova sophomore Rodney Wilson.
Best of the individual races figures to be the 600-yard run, in which Villanovan Anthony Tufariello at top form will be challenged by Maryland's Chris Person, last year's Millrose winner who was timed in 1:20.20 at Richmond Jan. 10.
High-jumper Franklin Jacobs, pole-vaulter Dan Ripley, miler Sydney Maree and Don Paige, who will run either the 880 or 1,000, are other top entries.
The Maryland entry list includes half-miler Ray Oglesby, pole-vaulters Chip McCarthy and Jon Warner, high-jumper Bill Thierfelder, two-miler John Green and an outstanding mile-relay team featuring Darryl Bryant.
Georgetown's bid for the distance-medley title collapsed when miler Kevin Byrne was forced out with a foot injury. The Hoyas still have three relay teams entered, but Coach Joe Lang said the lineup was "kind of up in the air. I had everything planned -- it was beautiful."
Jim DeRienzo, Georgetown graduate assistant, will represent the New York AC in the 1,000.
On the women's side, Georgetown's Chris Mullen goes in the 880, along with Maryland's Jean Whiston. Terrapin sprinter Leola Toomer should do well in the 60, which is dominated by Brenda Morehead. Maryland's Debbie Pavik will run the mile, in which Francie Larrieu is scheduled for another comeback.
Navy's track team is host to North Carolina State and William and Mary Saturday at 1:30 at Halsey Fieldhouse in Annapolis.