Rodney Wilson, Villanova's sophomore hurdling sensation, thought he was ready to beat Renaldo Nehemiah tonight. In fact, Wilson claimed before their confrontation at the Philadelphia Track Classic that he ought to be beating Nehemiah consistently.
Wilson came just close enough in the final to read Nehemiah's name on the back of his blue D.C. International jersey. The world's greatest high hurdler made his first 1981 start something to think about, beating Wilson by a clear two yards with a time of 7.01 for the 60-yard highs.
That is not a world record (6.89, Nehemiah) or even a meet record (6.95, Nehemiah and Greg Foster). It is excellent time, however, for a yong man who ran out of the blocks for the first time Thursday and has picked up 10 pounds while weightlifting in preparation for the Superstars final in February.
"That was a heck of a way to start," Nehemiah said. "I'm very rusty and I won on pure aggressiveness. Technically, I was high over each hurdle and if there is such a thing as two lanes, I needed both of them the way I was moving from side to side."
There were six finalists on a seven-lane track and Nehemiah, in lane three, had a vacant alley on his right.
"I'm not at all in shape to run seven seconds worth," the University of Maryland senior continued. "I've had only two days of speed hurdling, due to the weather conditions at Maryland, and yesterday was my first day out of the blocks. I hit the first hurdle or maybe I would have been six-point. I don't think anybody expected me to run this well, including myself."
Nehemiah was second in his Superstars preliminary behind the Phillies' Mike Schmidt and two points ahead of the man he hopes to beat in the intermediate hurdles this summer, virtually unbeatable Edwin Moses.
"I'd like to set a world record in the highs this year, going 12.9, and then do well in the intermediates," Nehemiah said. "I'm very hungry this year."
While Nehemiah was earning outstanding athlete honors in the meet, the Terrapins with whom he trains were scoring a big victory, too. Chris Person overhauled Seton Hall's Derrick Peynado in the last 20 yards to give Maryland victory in the top college mile relay in 3:18.89. The first three members of the quartet were Daryl Bryant, Ray Oglesby and David Saunders.
Earlier, Person finished second in the 600-yard run behind Villanova's Anthony Tufariello, who was timed in 1:11.60. Fred Sowerby by D.C. International was third.
Other Villanova winners, past and present, were Don Paige, 2:07.51 in the 1,000; Mark Belger, 1:54.1 in the 880, and Sydney Maree, 4:01.88 in the mile.
Houston sophomore Carl Lewis, an Olympic long jumper who runs the sprints for workout purposes, captured the 60-yard dash in 6.17 seconds, just one-tenth off the meet record.
Asked if he might become a runner, Lewis said, "No, never. I just do sprinting to keep up my speed for the long jump."
Left in Lewis' wake were Connecticut running back Ray James, internationalist Mel Lattany, Maryland's Darren Walker (6.24) Tennessee's Willie Gault, veteran Steve Riddick and, in seventh and last place, Georgia running back Herschel Walker, who got off to a terrible start.
Michelle Glover, 17, a senior at Willingboro (N.J.) High School, nipped Olympian Brenda Morehead in the women's 60, finishing in 6.89 to 6.90 for Morehead, who fell hard in a desperate dive for the tape. Maryland's Leola Toomer was fourth in 7.13.
In an early mile relay, anchrman Tom Van Lierde brought Catholic University from third place to a hairline victory over Pittsburgh in 3:29.75. uAfter racing into the lead, Van Lierde was able to hold off Pitt by only three-hundredths of a second. The Catholic runners had no warmup time, as they were kept in the lobby 35 minutes until their credentials were verified just before the gun went off.