Jim Ryun. Bob Seagren. Randy Matson. Brian Oldfield. Rod Milburn. Track and field's "men without a country." They tried to make a profession of their athletic specialties only to set their International Track Association, founded in the aura of the 1972 Olympic Games, flounder and finally die when its last hope, signing 1976 Olympic stars, failed. Since then, they have been ineligible to compete anywhere that matters - but, now, the door has crept ajar.

The Amateur Athletic Union announced yesterday that U.S. track pros may apply for reinstatement as amateurs. Some have retired from the sport. Some, kile Seagren, got rich in other "athletic" endeavors including TV's Superstars show. A "handful," as AAU spokesman Pete Cava said in Indianapolis, want to get into competition with the straights; prominent among those are shotputter Oldfield and hurdler Milburn. Olympic marathoner Frank Shorter, an amateur and a lawyer, pleaded their cause. All right responded the AAu, we'll consider applications case by case. But no guarantees.

Even of the AAu acceots the return of the prodiagals, after review at local and national level, Cava stressed, the International Amateur Athletics Federation would have final authority. And, he concluded, "it's hard to say" what IAAF would do - "It's a clear rule, it you accept money for competing, then you're a Professional. This could wind up a test case" . . .