Al Baginski saved the best for last. The senior, competing in his final meet for Maryland, hurled the discus 196 feet tonight to break Dick Drescher's 15-year-old school record by three feet. In the process, Baginski qualified for Friday's final in the 62nd NCAA Track and Field Championships.
There was joy for Georgetown, too, as Brian McNelis, seemingly shut out of the 800-meter final, made another of those last-gasp lunges of his and earned the eighth and last berth in the Friday event with a time of 1:47.56.
But if McNelis was pleased, Virginia's Ray Brown was most unhappy. For McNelis was fifth in a heat largely populated by nonentities, while Brown (1:48.41) was third behind Arkansas' Stanley Redwine (1:47.80) and Villanova's John Marshall (1:48.38) in a heat that included four of the NCAA indoor 880 finalists.
Alone in the track world, the NCAA chooses its finalists on the basis of time, beyond the heat winner, so both Marshall and Brown were shoved aside because the McNelis race produced faster clockings as Alabama's William Wuyke won in 1:46.85.
"I don't think it's fair," said Brown, third in this meet as a sophomore in 1982. "Times mean a lot, but the competitors you're going against mean more. The way this meet is set up, we're not competing against each other."
Brown's position is supported by the collegiate track coaches, who again this morning voted to return to the traditional qualifying by place, picking the top finishers in the trials and semifinals.
The coaches have so voted before, only to be overruled by the rules committee.
The only title decided today was in the women's 10,000 meters, where Betty Springs of North Carolina State covered the last lap in 66 seconds to edge Carey May of Brigham Young by three yards in a meet-record 33:01.02.
Baginski's 196 discus throw ranked third in the qualifying behind Rick Meyer of Houston (209-10) and defending champion Dean Crouser of Oregon (205-4). Fourteen advance to each field-event final, with none of the qualifying performances counting when action resumes.
Marita Walton of Maryland moved into the shot put final with the second-best performance, 53-6 1/2. Skeeter Jackson of George Mason advanced to the long jump final with a leap of 25-2 3/4 that placed him 11th.
Jill Haworth, the Virginia senior from Bowie, Md., who is recovering from a foot injury, qualified for Friday's final in the women's 1,500 meters with a personal best of 4:16.80.
Navy's Leo Williams leaped 7-3 on his second try to advance in the high jump, where it took four hours to trim a 38-man field to 14 finalists. Mike Pascuzzo of Maryland went out at the opening height of 6-11 3/4.
Among the Washington-area athletes eliminated tonight were David Charlton of Howard, 51.06 in the 400-meter hurdles; John Parker of George Mason, 21.30 in the 200 meters; Karen Hatchett of Virginia, 59.94 in the women's 400 hurdles, and Ruperta Charles of Howard, 11.83 in the women's 100.