Billy Olson's quest for a 19-foot indoor pole vault and Mary Decker Tabb's attempt to go under 4:20 in the mile offer the tastiest food for thought tonight as the 76th Millrose Games at New York's Madison Square Garden marks the high spot of the indoor track season.
Aside from the athletes, the meet's organizer, Howard Schmertz, is deserving of recognition, too, for giving track and field such a notable boost in these ailing days following the 1980 Olympic boycott.
In a year when Philadelphia's long-established meet joined the Washington CYO event as a fond memory and other sponsors weighed continuance in the face of increased expenses and wavering interest, Schmertz is faced with a unique problem.
"I wish I had 15,000 more tickets," he said. "I have to go into hiding, so many people want tickets I don't have. It's a terrible situation, but I'll take it."
At another meet, the withdrawal of NCAA high jump champion Milt Ottey with a broken leg, mile star Tom Byers with a pulmonary infection and hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah by decree of the International Amateur Athletics Federation might predicate disaster. At the Millrose, where athletes who normally demand excessive fees beg for invitations, their absence hardly will be noticed.
The packed house of 18,300 is capable of persuading Olson, should he be on form, to abandon his quarter-inch climb toward 19 and go all the way. Olson's current indoor best is 18-10 3/4, posted last week in Los Angeles.
Tabb, who sets a record almost every time she steps onto a track, will be challenged by old rivals Francie Larrieu and Jan Merrill in the mile, but it is the clock that figures to be the only competition at the finish. Tabb's indoor best is 4:20.5; she has run 4:18.08 outdoors.
Eamonn Coghlan, recovered from his 1982 stress fracture, heads the men's mile field, with Thomas Wessinghage, Todd Harbour, John Gregorek and front-running Mark Fricker challenging in Byers' absence.
There is much interest in Mike Stahr's brave assault on four minutes in the high school mile, against a classy field that includes Rodney Giles of Maryland's Northern High.
Carl Lewis, Track and Field News' athlete of the year for 1982, will try to add to his indoor long-jump best of 28-1.
The high jump is intriguing, with Jerome Carter of Harford Community College making his entry into major competition following that electrifying 7-7 effort at George Mason two weeks ago. Navy's Leo Williams, Dwight Stones, Tyke Peacock and Franklin Jacobs will be keeping close watch on the 19-year-old.