World record holder Billy Olson failed in three attempts to improve his world pole vault record last night in the 23rd Mason-Dixon games at Freedom Hall in Louisville, and had to settle for a tie for first place with Earl Bell.

Olson, a former Abilene Christian star who competes with the Pacific Coast Club, failed three times with the bar set at 18 feet 11 inches. Olson set the indoor world mark last week at 18-10 3/4 at Los Angeles.

Bell, the 1976 Olympic silver medalist, who also competes for the Pacific Coast Club, and Olson, were both successful at 18-4 1/2. Both refused a tie-breaking jumpoff.

Sam Graddy of Tennessee narrowly missed the meet record of 6.60 seconds in winning the men's 60-meter dash in a time of 6.64. Graddy defeated Nick White of Eastern Kentucky and was clocked in 6.74. Teammate Terry Scott of Tennessee was timed in 6.75.

Stephanie Hightower, fresh from victory in the Millrose Games in New York, improved her own American record, winning the women's 60-meter hurdles in 8.02.

Hightower, a Louisville native and a product of Ohio State, managed to win despite her admitted lack of an "explosive" start. She broke her record of 8.04 set last year.

Elaine Jones of Iowa won the women's 60-meter dash in 7.43, edging out Esther Hope of Jackson State with a time of 7.48.

The University of Tennessee women's mile relay team missed by five-tenths of a second the meet record set last year by Tennessee State, coming in at 3:43.6.

Unheralded Mark Rowe held off a strong finish by favored Mark Enyeart at the wire to win the men's 500-meter dash.

Rowe, from Jackson State University, set a new meet record of 1:01.6 that was just four-tenths of a second off the world record set by Herman Frazier in 1979.