For the want of a baton, the chance of LSU regaining the women's NCAA outdoor track and field championship went tumbling last night in Boise, Idaho.

The first exchange between Joyce Bates and Chenelle Marshall in the 400-meter relay semifinals went awry and so did the Tigers' hope of regaining the title from Texas. The Longhorns, who ended LSU's 11-year reign last year, had no difficulty with their handoffs and won their heat in 43.20 seconds, a record for Boise State's Bronco Stadium.

George Mason's Angie Brown, the defending champion in the long jump, finished second with a leap of 21 feet 2 3/4 inches. Pittsburgh's Trecia Smith, the 1997 champion, won with a leap of 21-8 1/4.

"I felt good, the best I have all season," Brown said."

Stanford swept the men's 10,000 for the second straight year. Nathan Nutter won in 29:11.96, followed by Jason Balkman (29:12.91) and Brent Hauser (29:14.07). Auburn freshman Gabor Mate won the men's discus at 202-1, and SMU sophomore Florence Ezeh took the women's hammer throw at 207-2.

Georgetown sophomore Kristen Gordon had the top time in the women's 3,000 meters, winning the first preliminary heat in 9:31.84 seconds. She will compete in the final tonight.

George Mason sprinter Cydonie Mothersill, who became academically ineligible at midnight last night, anchored the Patriots' 4x100 relay team in its semifinal heat. The team finished third, behind Texas and UCLA, in 44.80 seconds, missing a berth in today's final by four-hundredths of a second.

"I could have run faster but under the circumstances I think I ran well," Mothersill said. "It's been very hard. I'm doing this for them [pointing to her teammates]. They've told me it's never finished until the final race is over."

Mothersill also ran in a preliminary heat for the 200 meters, an event in which she has the fifth-fastest time in intercollegiate track this season. Her time of 23.51 seconds qualified her for tonight's semifinals.

Lynn King, Drake's athletic director and chairman of the NCAA Division I track and field committee, said George Mason faces a possible penalty and fine if Mothersill is scratched for a reason other than injury. He said he would not comment on the specific issue "until I know the circumstances."