Evelyn Ashford surpassed her 4-week-old indoor best with a clocking of 5.74 seconds in the women's 50-yard dash tonight in the Michelob Invitational track meet at the San Diego Sports Arena.

In the featured event, Eamonn Coghlan ran the fastest indoor mile of the year with a 3:53.1, beating chief rival Steve Scott.

Coghlan, who set the unofficial world record of 3:50.6 two years ago when he last faced Scott, burst past the American record holder at the outset of the last lap and won by a commanding margin. Scott was timed at 3:54.5 and Todd Harbour was third at 3:57.0.

"Deep down all I wanted to do was win the race," said Coghlan. "I've had a lot of misfortunes in the last three weeks and I just badly needed to win a race. I won against the No. 1 miler in the world."

Coghlan was referring to the recent death of his father during a visit from Ireland to the United States. It was the first time Coghlan has competed since his father died.

In the pole vault, Billy Olson cleared 18-6, but narrowly missed a world record at 19 3/4 on the second of three tries.

In the women's 50, Ashford, whose world's best in the 60-yard dash here a year ago was disallowed after several weeks of controversy, outraced Alice Brown, who was timed in 5.79, the third-fastest indoor time ever recorded in the event.

Jennifer Innis finished third with a time of 5.88 seconds.

Ashford's previous mark in the 50 (all indoor records are unofficial) was 5.77. She is the current indoor record holder in the 60-yard dash at 6.54.

Brown, as is her custom, took the lead immediately upon coming out of the blocks, but Ashford overtook her near the 40-yard mark.

"I didn't think my start was that great, but it was not that bad either," said Ashford, adding that she was surprised at her time because one leg has been bothering her.

Officials said Ashford and the other women sprinters had decided before the 50-yard dash to cancel the 60-yard dash scheduled for later so they could concentrate on the shorter sprint.

In the men's sprints, Houston McTear got out of the blocks quickly and held on to edge fast-closing Stanley Floyd in the 50. McTear clocked 5.34, just .12 of a second off Floyd's world best.

McTear also started well in the men's 60-yard dash, but faded, losing to Ron Brown and Floyd. Brown's winning time was 6.14 seconds.

In the long jump, Carl Lewis set a meet record with two leaps of 27-9 1/2. That was 3 1/2 inches short of his own world indoor best; Lewis said his timing at the board was off "and that's keeping me from the big, big jump.