Traditionally--since 1948, to be exact--at least one indoor best has emerged from the USA/Mobil Track and Field Championships.

Pole vaulter Billy Olson would like to keep that streak intact Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

"I never seem to do what I would like to in New York, but maybe this time my luck will change," he said. Olson set a record of 19-0 1/4 in Toronto earlier this month, the first indoor vault over 19 feet. It was the third time this season Olson had bettered the unofficial record (all indoor records are unofficial), and he's still thinking higher.

"All I can do is go higher. Twenty feet may be a ways off, but I've got to start looking at it," he said. He doesn't think 19-4 or 19-5 is unrealistic at all.

He set the record in Toronto on his second attempt, after switching from a 200-pound test pole to his regular pole, five pounds lighter. He changed poles after, "I almost missed the pit. It really was a pretty big pole, and at that height, I could've killed myself."

Olson will also compete at the Meadowlands Sunday, in the Vitalis/Olympic Invitational meet, which was postponed by snow two weeks ago. "I have two meets left," Olson said. "Hopefully, I'll get records in both of them."

Friday night's meet, which will be televised nationally (WETA-TV-26 in Washington) beginning at 9, is regarded as the national indoor championships and is the last of 14 meets on the $150,000 Grand Prix circuit. High scorers in men's and women's divisions will be awarded $10,000. Olson leads the men's category with 110 points.

Olson was trying to take things easy today, getting some rest and concentrating on his Friday task. For top track-and-field events, avoiding the limelight is not as easy as it once was.

Olson, long jumper Carl Lewis and sprinter Evelyn Ashford began the day by taping a "Today Show" segment that will be broadcast Friday morning.

Lewis, who set a 60-yard dash mark of 6.02 Feb. 5 in Dallas and holds the indoor long-jump record (28-1), will compete in both events Friday, doubling for the only time this season.

Ashford, who was trying to grab a quick lunch before a weight-training session and a nap, said she has spent more time in front of television cameras than training since arriving in New York late Tuesday.

"It could interfere with your concentration if you let it," she said. "Yeah, I did the 'Today Show' this morning, and there have been a lot of others," she said. "I could do more (interviews) today, but I'm too tired, and want to get ready for the meet."

A year ago, she ran an indoor best (6.54) in the 60-yard dash, a time she will have to tie or better to win the Grand Prix.

"If I win, and get a world record, I'll be the overall Grand Prix champion, and that money will really help my training," she said. "I'm looking to win, because it'll be my fifth national (title)."

Ashford set a 50-yard record of 5.74 last week, and has a total of 60 points towards the Grand Prix championship.

In the Grand Prix, points are awarded on a 20-10-5 basis for first through third places. A world best means another 20, an American or world-equaling performance is worth 10 and the matching of an American record is worth five. Besides the $10,000 winners, whose prizes are awarded to the athlete's club, not to the individual, the second- through fifth-place finishers will receive $8,000, $6,000, $4,000 and $2,000, respectively.

Ashford, who will also compete at the Meadowlands Sunday, is pleased with the attention for her sport. "Track and field is such a minor sport, we're grateful for all the attention we can get," she said.

Ashford refuses to talk about next year's Olympics. "I've got to get through 1983 first," she said. "But I'm looking forward to Helsinki (the world championships in August). That's where we'll see some champions."

Eamonn Coghlan, current holder of the indoor mile record (3:50.6) said he will be trying for 3:49.9. "I want a new record."

Coghlan, who sat out the indoor season a year ago with a stress fracture and Achilles' tendon problems, began the year with a 4:04.52 mile in Ottawa and then ran 3:55.4 in Los Angeles. He set his mile record two years ago in San Diego.