Sydney Maree won the mile in 3:52.86 today, fastest time ever recorded in the East. Then he talked about what might have been.

"I expected 3:50 at least," said the South African runner who will become a U.S. citizen in January. "I don't even feel tired. It's just tough all by yourself. All week I expected Don (Paige) to run. Then at the starting line I found out he couldn't. It's very disappointing, but of course he can't help it."

Paige learned on Monday that he had a bone spur on the bottom of his left heel. He aggravated the problem Wednesday, then received an injection of Butazolidin and expected it to clear up by race time. This morning, however, when he awoke and took a few steps on a bare foot, he knew he could not run.

"I'm in such great condition that I really wanted to run," Paige said. "I'm upset. This is two for two. Last year I had torn tendons in my left ankle and couldn't run here, either."

Although only 5,135 fans turned up for the second Jumbo Elliott Invitational, this is a big meet for Maree and Paige and all the rest of the runners Elliott coached during almost half a century at Villanova.

Unhappy or not, Maree made the day one to remember for those who watched. Trailing pace-setter Jama Aden of Somalia through 2 3/4 laps, Maree finally told Aden to move over and battled the clock to the finish. He covered the final quarter in 56.2 seconds despite the absence of competition.

Afterward, Maree satisfied dozens of autograph seekers and indicated that he expects to go well under his 1981 best of 3:48.83 this summer. On July 6 in Stockholm, he has a big date with Sebastian Coe, world record holder at 3:47.33.

Chuck Aragon of Notre Dame finished second today in 3:56.99 and Matt Centrowitz, the new American 5,000-meter record holder, was third in 3:58.09. John Gregorek of Georgetown was another late scratch, deciding to save himself for a double steeplechase assignment in the TAC/USA Championships next week at Knoxville.

In other feature events, James Robinson continued his 800-meter dominance despite a bumping incident and Carl Lewis easily won the 200 meters in 20.82.

In tight finishes, sore-footed Mel Lattany captured the 100 meters; Ross Donoghue held off Sosthenes Bitok in the two-mile and Sue Addison fought back Jill Haworth's late challenge in the women's mile.

Despite a two-heat format in the 800, Robinson found himself battling 10 other runners. He was in fourth place shortly past the 400-meter mark when pace-setting John Gray was tripped and lost his balance, forcing Robinson far outside. Nevertheless, Robinson was quickly back on stride and ran away with the victory in 1:47.43. Fred Sowerby, the D.C. International veteran, placed second in 1:49.09 as he overhauled Villanova freshman John Marshall in the stretch.

"There were too many people for a good time," Robinson said. "There was a lot of jockeying for position and place changes. Everybody wanted to be second or third."

Lewis pulled away from Elliott Quow down the stretch, then waved his fist several times to the crowd. The world's best in the 100 meters and long jump, Lewis was trying the longer route because "I always felt I could do well in the 200 and never had time, but now I want to branch out and do other things."

Lewis said he planned to try the long jump only four more times this year and "I don't plan to jump under 28."

Lattany edged Hubert Blue, Quow and Willie Smith while clocking 10.64 in the 100. Luis Morales of Oxon Hill (Md.) High School turned in an excellent 10.77 for fifth.

"I prefer the 200, but my foot is too sore to run turns right now," Lattany said. "The arch is flattened. I feel pain throughout the race and physically I'm only about 85 percent."

Donoghue, beaten three times in close finishes this year, hung on down the stretch to whip Bitok by a stride and slash more than 30 seconds off the Villanova Stadium two-mile mark with a clocking of 8:29.4.

Addison, the women's track coach at Brown and a former Michigan State half-miler, ran her first competitive mile and won in 4:34.11. Haworth, the Virginia junior from Bowie, ran a personal best of 4:34.32, while Virginia teammate Lesley Welch was third.

Addison "got a jump on me when she went with a lap to go," said Haworth, who moved up from fourth on the backstretch and just fell short. "I shouldn't have held back. I was lulled into the pace. Another 100 and I would have had her."

Ed Brown won the 400-meter hurdles with Maryland's Chris Person third and Howard's Bernard Oliver fourth. The 400 meters, both Mobil Grand Prix events, went to Sharon Dabney and Walter McCoy. Willie Gault captured the 110-meter high hurdles.