Much of the pleasure from the qualifying rounds of a track meet is derived from savoring the matchups to come in the finals.
The 65th NCAA championships will have two classic confrontations on Saturday, based on the drama of tonight's heats.
Foremost is the 400-meter duel between Gabriel Tiacoh of Washington State, who led all qualifiers tonight in a remarkable 44.74 seconds, and defending champion Roddie Haley of Arkansas, who won a more leisurely heat in 45.51.
Tiacoh, the Olympic silver medalist from the Ivory Coast, was third last year when Haley blazed to the NCAA title in 44.70.
The nine finalists will not include Michael Greene of Navy, who ran 46.74 and was eliminated.
Another classic final involves the 100 meters, with the principals being Lee McRae of Pittsburgh, fastest tonight in 10.14, and Sam Graddy of Tennessee, another heat winner in 10.15.
Roy Martin, the highly regarded Southern Methodist freshman, was an upset victim in 10.37, and his failure to reach the final turns the team title into turmoil, with Texas, Arkansas and Washington State now equal to SMU.
Terri Dendy of George Mason finally gave the Washington, D.C., area something to cheer about tonight when she won her 400-meter heat in 52.37. Lillie Leatherwood, the U.S. Olympian from Alabama, won the other heat in 52.03. Eliminated were Howard's Janice Kelly (54.31) and Tisa Robinson (54.46).
Howard's 4x400-meter women's relay team of Connie Hitchcock, Kelly, Robinson and Cindy Ford qualified for Saturday's final in 3:34.65. Virginia did not finish. In the men's 4x400, Howard ran 3:06.97 and was eliminated.
In the only final decided tonight, Jolanda Jones of Houston won the heptathlon with a personal best of 5,826 points. Over seven events and two days, she outlasted two foreign athletes, West Germany's Conny Eckl of Washington State (5,718) and Sweden's Eva Karblom of Brigham Young (5,621). Beth Sheehan of Virginia was eighth with 5,407.
Ken Flax of Oregon led the hammer throw qualifying with 255-1, missing Tore Gustafsson's collegiate record by two centimeters.