When Oliver Bridges of Howard came to the NCAA Track and Field Championships, the first thing he discovered was that his name had been deleted from the list of qualifiers for the 400 meters.
It seems, according to Howard Coach Bill Moultrie, that the Bison's winning 4x400-meter time of 3:03.91 at the Penn Relays had been submitted without the last digit. The games committee, in questioning that clocking, carried its doubts further afield and knocked out Bridges' 45.7 time for the 400, established at Charlottesville May 15.
After the submission of the necessary substantiating documents, Bridges was returned to the 400 field and tonight the junior from Suitland, Md., proved to any doubters that he belonged.
Bridges covered the lap in 45.86, third-best time among the eight who advanced to Saturday's final. Bert Cameron of Texas-El Paso won the third heat in 45.27, followed by Sunday Uti of Iowa State (45.68) and Bridges. The other two heats were won in slower time.
Bridges ran in the inside lane, with Cameron on the extreme outside. Although Bridges was pleased to find Cameron in the heat, knowing it would be fast, he was not happy about running the tight inside turns.
"I had a slow time coming in, so I got the inside and it's not good for a tall runner like me," Bridges said. "On the outside you use less kinetic energy getting around. And I wanted to get next to Bert, so I could stay close to him and get a fast time.
"As it was, I could barely see him out there. But I warmed up with him to get psyched up. I don't know whether he thought I was following him, but it's all mental at this stage and I wanted every edge I could get.
"One thing I love is the weather. It's been off and on in D.C. all spring, but this is my kind of weather."
Bridges came back later, as hot as the weather, with a swift 45.1 anchor leg that helped the Bison to the fourth-best time of 3:04.21 in gaining a spot in the 4x400-meter relay final. Preceding Bridges were David Charlton (46.9), Kenneth Wilson (46.4) and Richard Louis (45.8).
Afterward, however, Bridges was not so sure that he liked it this hot. Warming down, in full sweatsuit, he suddenly collapsed and needed treatment from the trainers before leaving Robertson Stadium.
A strong headwind was the catalyst for Texas' Einar Vilhjalmsson, a javelin thrower from Iceland. Vilhjalmsson, whose previous best was 279-3, lofted one 295-2 to establish a meet record, beating Bob Roggy's 1978 mark by 26 inches.
Gerald Lyons of Washington State provided even more excitement, when he planted his wind-blown square in the middle of the triple-jump runway while that event was in progress.
Performances in qualifying do not carry over to the finals, so Vilhjalmsson must start from scratch Saturday. The same goes for Leslie Deniz of Arizona State, who set a meet standard of 209-4 in the women's discus.
The wind mixed up qualifying in the women's long jump. Carol Lewis of Houston had the best leap, 21-11 3/4, but it was wind-aided, so the meet record remained the property of Jennifer Innis of Cal State-Los Angeles. She improved her 1982 mark by a quarter inch with a legal 21-10. Brenda Bailey of Howard advanced with 20-3 1/2.
Another meet record fell in the women's 400-meter qualifying, as Florence Griffith of UCLA clocked 51.31 to wipe out the 51.71 established by Tennessee's Cathy Rattray in the 1982 heats. Rattray, a graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, advanced tonight in 52.23.
Kevin King of Georgetown (3:44.57) and John Hinton of Virginia (3:45.12) moved into the finals of the 1,500 meters. Virginia's Vince Draddy was disqualified, however, for interfering with Villanova's Mike England on the backstretch of the last lap, a ruling that was vainly appealed by the Virginia coaching staff.
Darwin Cook, the H. D. Woodson graduate now at Southern California, ran the 100 meters in 10.27 and was informed by a coach that he had missed the final. When a reporter told Cook otherwise, he could not believe it; later, learning he was a finalist, he jumped for joy and exchanged high fives with everyone in sight.
Jeanette Kelly of Virginia gained the last 800-meter qualifying spot in 2:07.44 and teammate Martha White advanced in the 5,000 in 16:14.21.
Eliminated tonight were Perry Puccetti of Navy, 227-6 in the javelin; Marita Walton of Maryland, 162-8 in the women's discus; Lisa Garrett of Virginia, 53.85 in the women's 400, and Tomi Rucker (19-8 3/4) and Tamela Penny (19-0 1/2) of Maryland in the women's long jump.