Oliver Bridges of Howard raced past Kent Gapen of Arizona State on the final turn of the climactic 4x400-meter event today and brought the Bison their first Penn Relays championship.

Howard's breakthrough occurred on a day when Villanova, winner of an incomprehensible 80 titles over the past 28 years, was shut out for the first time since 1954.

Bridges, a junior from Suitland, Md., yielded the lead to Gapen on the backstretch after Howard had led from the first baton pass. But he stormed back into the lead and crossed the tape four meters in front.

Howard was timed in 3:03.90, with Bridges anchoring in 45.9. He was preceded by David Charlton, 46.5; Kenny Wilson, 46.4, and Richard Louis, 45.8.

"We've been chasing it since 1975, and we just kept knocking away at it until it came," said Howard Coach Bill Moultrie.

After a victory lap before 37,126, the four Bison runners came over to Moultrie and told him they had won the race for him.

"We wanted to win it for the coach because of his patience, perseverance and all the attributes of a good coach," Bridges said. "He'd never won Penn Relays and we knew how much it meant to him.

"I was very confident on the last lap. I kind of wanted him (Gapen) to come up on me, so we could go neck and neck. I knew I had the speed to go past him."

Howard and Arizona State had finished in a near dead heat in their qualifying race on Friday. Although the judges ruled that the Sun Devils had won, Howard felt it was the real winner. "I thought I was ahead, but we couldn't argue or get upset about it," Bridges said. "We had to prove ourselves today."

While Howard was collecting its first relays watches, Navy seniors Leo Williams and Perry Puccetti were giving the academy its first titles since 1974.

Williams leaped 7 feet 5 inches to win the only major collegiate high-jump honors that had eluded him in a career that has seen him win World University, NCAA, IC4A and Heptagonal crowns. The success added three-quarters of an inch to the meet record set last year by Ken Glover of Eastern Kentucky, but Williams failed in three attempts to set a U.S. mark of 7-7 3/4.

Puccetti won the javelin at 262-9, the top effort here since 1979. Puccetti added eight feet to his previous personal best, a leap forward he attributed to advice from Coach Al Cantello, a onetime world record-holder in the event, to lean farther back before releasing the spear.

Arkansas, winner of the distance medley relay on Friday, added the 4x1,500 and sprint medley championships today, with Villanova second in each.

Tom Maloney's 3:44.6 second leg was the key to Arkansas' 4x1,500 success as Villanova lost the event for the first time in six years. Virginia finished third and Georgetown, with Kevin King anchoring in 3:46.7, was fifth.

Stanley Redwine came from 30 meters back to edge Villanova's ailing John Marshall in the sprint medley. Redwine clocked 1:46.0 and Arkansas posted a fine time of 3:15.22. Howard, close to the lead after three legs, finished fourth.

Penn State took the 4x800 for its first Relays success since 1959. Georgetown's Brian McNelis ran down Villanova's Marcus O'Sullivan on the last turn and had victory in sight, only to have Penn State's Ken Wynn come charging past him to win it.

McNelis' fine anchor time of 1:49.1 matched Aubrey McKithen's leadoff leg, which had given the Hoyas an early lead. Villanova faded to fourth, behind Arizona State.

North Carolina State retained its titles in the 4x100 and 4x200, setting a meet record of 1:21.38 in the latter. George Mason won the IC4A version of both events, establishing a mark of 1:22.43 in the 4x200.

Tennessee easily took the shuttle hurdles in 56.4, with Virginia second, but anchorman Willie Gault made only one more appearance, suffering a hamstring pull in the 4x100.

Carl Lewis captured the open 100 meters in 10.09 seconds as a crosswind, the absence of competition and a mediocre start prevented him from challenging the world record of 9.95. Terry Scott of Tennessee won the college version in a record 10.2.

Mark Klee of Arkansas set a meet record of 17-6 3/4 in the pole vault and David McFadgen of Virginia State boosted the triple jump mark to 54-4 1/2. Mike Scudieri of George Mason was fourth in the triple at 52-0 3/4.

Benita Fitzgerald, of Tennessee and Woodbridge, Va., finished strong to take the women's open 100-meter hurdles in a meet-record 12.93 as she defeated Kim Turner and Stephanie Hightower.

Randy Givens of Florida State won the women's 100 meters in 11.28, another record, and led off the Seminoles' record-setting 4x400 team, which was timed in 3:32.28. Tennessee took the women's 4x800 in 8:33.0 with Cathy Rattray of Bethesda-Chevy Chase leading off.

The open miles were taken by Tom Byers, 3:58.41, and Brenda Webb, 4:35.55.