After an 80-foot javelin throw Wednesday had wasted two days of toil in her second heptathlon in a week, Virginia senior Ann Bair was ready for a rest. Instead, she competed in the high jump at the 89th Penn Relays today, with a startling result.
Bair was rewarded with a watch and the beginning of a suntan as she leaped 6 feet 2 inches, a personal best and a Franklin Field record, on one of the first decent days, weatherwise, of the outdoor track season. Then she came so close in three tries at 6-3 1/2 that she may be easily persuaded to put her other six events in mothballs after the NCAA championships.
"If I can clear 6-4, I think I can be competitive for the Olympics," said Bair, an all-round athlete who played varsity basketball for two years at Virginia before deciding she had to concentrate on track to improve. "I really look at myself as a high jumper, but just practicing the one event day in and day out can be a little boring.
"I've spent a whole year of weight training, running hills and training for the multi-eventer. It's made me a lot stronger. I didn't expect to jump this well this early, so I'll continue to work on both and see what happens."
Maryland's Marita Walton, twice a double winner here in the weight events, has put her discus in storage. She is sticking to the shot put with the intention of representing her native Ireland in the world track championships in August, as well as the Olympics.
Walton stayed on target today by winning the shot for the fourth straight year. Her distance of 54-8 1/4, although more than a foot below her best, added 4 1/4 inches to her Franklin Field record.
Cathy Rattray, a graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, was timed in 2 minutes 10.4 seconds for her 800-meter leg as Tennessee set a collegiate record of 11:04.2 in the distance medley relay. Virginia, which won the last three years, was a distant third.
While Washington-area collegians were winning their share of gold, the high school contingent was performing well, too.
Ellen Fox of McLean High School won the long jump at 19-11 3/4, which would have given her fourth place in the college event. Maria Lovelace of T.C. Williams was the shot put winner at 45-0 1/2.
A safe bet to add another title Friday is the 4x400-meter relay team from Central High School in Seat Pleasant, Md. The defending champion Falcons brought gasps from the crowd with the day's fastest qualifying time of 3:43.2. Robin Benjamin, who led off last year's record-setting (3:42.73) quartet, anchored this time after newcomers Paulette Turner, Paula Bryant and Sabrae Hilliard had destroyed the opposition.
Central also clocked 48.7 to qualify for Friday's 4x100-meter final, as Oxon Hill (48.9) just missed. Although Central had the area's best 4x800-meter time (9:35.7), it was four seconds away from a berth in the final.
Andrea Volpe of Lake Braddock in Fairfax was second in the high school 3,000 meters in 10:03.5, although unable to challenge front-running Kim Ryan of New Paltz, N.Y., who won in 9:44.
Alisa Harvey of Jefferson High School in Annandale placed third in the 1,500 meters in 4:34.3. The winner was Michelle Rowen of Washington Township, N.J., in 4:25.1.
Sharieffa Barksdale of Tennessee set a meet record of 57.37 in winning the college 400-meter hurdles. Lynne Strauss, a North Carolina State freshman, took the college 3,000 in 9:22.7, and teammate Betty Spriggs won the 5,000 in 16:11.5.
Howard qualified for the final of the 4x100-meter relay (46.38) and the 4x400 (3:39.5). Georgetown's 8:56.8 led the qualifiers for Saturday's 4x800 final, in which 10 teams, including Virginia and George Mason, were seeded without having to run today.
Although the women held center stage in the afternoon, a series of men's distance races was held tonight. In the highlight, Keith Brantly of Florida took the college 10,000 meters for the third straight year in 28:54.6. Gerard Donakowski of Michigan won the college 5,000 in 13:52.9.
The men continue with seven hours of competition Friday. The highlight is Villanova's bid to regain distance-medley supremacy, after Georgetown ended its 16-year winning streak in 1982.