Villanova's Bobby Curtis and La Salle's Sean Quigley made the 5,000-meter race at the NCAA East Regional seem like a Big 5 dual meet.

Curtis nipped Quigley on the final lap, winning the championship event at Florida State in Tallahassee.

Curtis' winning time was 14 minutes, 6.81 seconds, while Quigley, who came into the meet as the top seed, finished second in 14:07.63, 37 seconds slower than his best time for the distance this season.

"It's an NCAA regional, a very tactical race, and it's been very, very hot here," Charles Torpey, Quigley's coach at La Salle, told the Daily News. "The pace was very slow, and Sean hadn't run for 4 weeks. I wanted a tactical race before the NCAAs and Olympic Trials."

Curtis and Quigley both advanced to the NCAA championship meet at Des Moines, Iowa in 2 weeks, where Quigley will choose between running the 5,000 or 10,000 meters, which he is not running at the regional.

"Bobby Curtis is phenomenal and Sean is phenomenal," Torpey said. "You have two runners in the same city that are two of the best in the country. I tell people it's like [UCLA's] Kevin Love and that other guy at Southern Cal [O.J. Mayo], except nobody knows them because they're runners."

Curtis and Quigley were not the only local athletes to come through with top performances at the meet, which qualifies runners for the NCAA championships.

Frances Koons, Villanova's senior distance star who overcame kidney cancer in the last year, finished third in the women's 5,000 final in 16:15.44, 15 seconds better than her previous best this season, and will also run at Des Moines.

In the men's 400 meters, Villanova junior Elvis Lewis, an All-American last year, led all qualifiers into today's final with a time of 46.15 seconds. In the women's 400, Penn State seniors Dominque Blake (52.82) and Shana Cox (52.86) were second and third, respectively, in the preliminaries and also moved on to the final. Cox also reached the 200 final.

Also advancing to a final for the Wildcats was senior Michael Kerrigan, who ran the 1,500 meters in 3:49.05.

Penn will be represented in finals today, in the men's and women's 800 meters.

Jesse Carlin's time of 2:06.05 was the third-fastest time in the women's 800 heats, while Tim Kaijala advanced in the men's field with a time of 1:48.21. Both are seniors.

The top qualifier in the men's 800 was Delaware State freshman Donte Holmes in 1:48.21.

The Quakers picked up points in the men's long jump final, with a fifth-place finish from senior Kyle Calvo (23-6 1/4).

Other Penn State qualifiers included sophomores Aleesha Barber (58.38 seconds) and Wendy Door (58.59) in the women's 400-meter hurdles.

In the day's final field event, Lehigh freshman James Pachucki won the men's javelin with a best throw of 198-11. *