John Marshall, a superb half-miler, held off John Gregorek, a courageous steeplechaser, to give Villanova a tight victory over Georgetown today in a dramatic 4x800-meter relay in which the first seven teams broke the national collegiate record.

In another unforgettable finish on this final day of the 88th Penn Relays, Tennessee's Joetta Clark ran a 2:01.6 anchor 800, overtaking Virginia's Jill Haworth and giving the Volunteers a collegiate record of 8:32.12 for the 4x800.

The concluding men's 4x400 relay provided thrills, too, as Ed Yearwood of Morgan State ran a 45.3 anchor to pass Howard's Bernard Oliver and prevent the Bison from earning a first-ever championship here.

Perhaps the finest individual effort was by Benita Fitzgerald, the Tennessee junior from Gar-Field High in Woodbridge, Va., and she was named outstanding woman athlete. If Fitzgerald perfects her start, she could be an Olympic contender; she came from well back to defeat Stephanie Hightower in the women's 100-meter hurdles in 12.96.

Villanova, its 16-year distance medley streak ended by Georgetown on Friday, came back today to win three championship relays--the 4x800, the 4x1,500 and the sprint medley. It was the 4x800 that will take its place on the list of all-time great Penn events, however.

Mike England appeared to break the race open for Villanova with a 1:46.6 split on the second 800. But Georgetown sophomore Brian McNelis got the Hoyas within three meters at the final pass with a 1:46.1 third leg, matching the relays' best split, which he turned in during the distance medley.

Gregorek came close enough to scare Villanova partisans, but his 1:49.2 was good enough only for second. Villanova's time was 7:12.29, Georgetown's 7:12.62. Richmond was third and Virginia fifth.

"We lost to one of the greatest teams in track and field," Gregorek said. "We can't be disappointed. I got the stick in perfect position, thanks to the three guys who ran in front of me."

Aubrey McKithen opened for Georgetown in 1:49.5 and Rich Caton followed in 1:47.9.

Clark was 25 meters behind Haworth when she received the baton in the women's version, took the lead on the final turn and then dived across the finish line as Haworth gamely fought back down the stretch, only to fall one-hundredth of a second short

As for Villanova, the 4x800 provided a measure of revenge for the Volunteers, beaten by Virginia in Thursday's distance medley. Each team had two Washington-area runners, Cathy Rattray of Bethesda-Chevy Chase (2:06.6 leadoff) and Linda Portasik of Fort Hunt (2:07.3 third leg) for Tennessee, Linda Nicholson of Yorktown (2:09.0 third leg) and Haworth of Bowie (2:05.7 anchor) for Virginia.

Howard took the lead on the second leg of the 4x400, as Richard Lewis moved in front with a 47.3 quarter. David Charlton kept the Bison on top, but Oliver could not withstand the tremendous surge by Yearwood.

The Bears were timed in 3:06.03, the Bison 3:08.00 for the event that provided a fitting conclusion to nine hours of nonstop action watched by 39,777.

Fitzgerald's previous best hurdles time was 13.10. Her accomplishment can best be shown by a look at the 1981 world list, as only three women, all East Europeans, went under 12.96.

Hightower seemed a sure winner at the midway mark, but Fitzgerald gradually cut her down and pulled it out. Candy Young was far back in third place.

"I got my usual start," Fitzgerald said, sarcastically. "I'd been point-five behind her all spring, but the difference this time was that I didn't lose my concentration."

"Indoors, she wasn't running that well, and it was me and Candy," Hightower said. "Now the tables are turned."

Ken Glover of Eastern Kentucky set a meet record of 7 feet 4 1/4 in the high jump, as Navy's Leo Williams once again failed to win the one event that has escaped him. Williams and Connecticut's James Hopson shared second at 7-2 1/4.

North Carolina State, which never had won a championship relay here, took both the 4x100 and 4x200 titles. The Wolfpack ran 39.91 for the shorter race, as George Mason placed fourth in 41.04, and won the two-lapper in 1:22.53.

Tennessee set a relays record of 55.4 in the shuttle hurdles, with Virginia third in 57.1. Willie Gault, the Volunteers' anchor, broke Renaldo Nehemiah's meet mark in winning the 110 highs in 13.47.

Virginia, anchored by Ray Brown, won a sprint medley consolation race in 3:21.33. Maryland, with Ray Oglesby running the half, clocked 3:20.33 for second in another consolation.

Maryland's Per Kristoffersen led the Jumbo Elliott Mile until the last few meters, then settled for third as Craig Masback won in 4:02.66.

The Atoms Track Club set a relays record of 3:35.3 in the women's Olympic Development 4x400, where runner-up D.C. International was disqualified for interference after the final handoff.

Luis Morales of Oxon Hill in Maryland turned in a pair of outstanding anchor legs on today's high school program. Morales brought the Clippers from third place to a 42.71 victory in a consolation 4x100-meter relay and ran a 48.0 quarter as Oxon Hill won its 4x400-meter heat in 3:21.1.

No Washington-area school qualified for the 4x400 championship.