It was like old times, except that the stakes were higher, as Virginia's Jill Haworth of Bowie and Tennessee's Linda Portasik of Fort Hunt battled it out today on the 1,600-meter anchor leg of the distance medley relay championship at the 88th Penn Relays.

Haworth, taking the baton five yards behind, stayed on Portasik's heels until the final lap, then charged past to win by 40 yards as the Cavaliers won the event for the third straight year.

"This is No. 3; we're going for a tradition like Villanova," Haworth said after her 4:41.9 clocking. "The other girls gave me good position and I felt good all the way. I always respect Linda's running ability and I knew there was no way I was going to walk away with it. I'd say we're about even over the years."

Haworth's reluctance to move ahead earlier probably cost Virginia a U.S. record for the third straight time, as its 11:12.51 missed last year's mark by 3.8 seconds. Haworth ran 4:38.5 in anchoring that one and she still owns the relays' fastest 1,200 and 1,600 splits.

Preceding Haworth were Lesley Welch, 3:26.8 for 1,200; Lisa Garrett, 54.2 for 400, and Lisa Welch, 2:09.7 for 800. The Welch twins are freshmen.

Virginia has a way to go to challenge Villanova's mastery of the men's distance medley. The Wildcats try for a 17th straight title in the feature of Friday's program.

Marita Walton of Maryland won the shot put with a meet record heave of 54 feet 4 inches in another highlight of ladies' day. However, the Irish shot record holder was unable to complete a third straight shot-discus double as she placed fourth at 166-4 behind the meet record 182-10 of Tennessee's Pat Walsh, who also was setting an Irish discus mark.

"The discus is my second event and we haven't been outdoors long enough for me to work on it at all," Walton said. "Some day I'd like to work on the discus--I think I could be great at it. But for now I'm concentrating on the European Championships in the shot."

Central High of Seat Pleasant, Md., qualified for three finals Friday, with Karen Woods, Pam Gaddy and Pam Carter running on all three teams.

The Falcons had the fastest time in the 4x400-meter relay, 3:49.6, the second-best time in the 4x100 meters, 48.5, and the fourth-best in the 4x800 meters, 9:28.2.

Tomi Rucker of Coolidge was busy, too. She won the high school long jump championship at 19-7, then anchored two victorious relay teams, in the 4x100 and the 4x400. Her team gained Friday's final of the shorter race with a time of 48.9 and advanced in the 4x400 in 3:57.8.

Also earning berths in the 4x100 final, as the Washington area filled half the eight slots, were T.C. Williams, 48.7, and Oxon Hill, 49.3. A poor first handoff proved costly to Bladensburg, a heat winner in 50.9. Suitland, another winner in 50.7, also failed to gain the final.

McKinley, 3:53.3, became the third Washington team in the 4x400 final. T.C. Williams, 3:59.6, just missed.

Edna Brown of Temple won the college 400-meter intermediate hurdles for the fourth year in a row, clocking 57.60. Sande Cullinane outsprinted N.C. State teammate Sue Girard to win the 3,000 meters in 9:24.46.

George Mason, 47.5, and Howard, 47.7, advanced to Friday's final in the college 4x100-meter relay. Howard, 3:42.6, also qualified for Saturday's 4x400-meter relay championship.