A whirlwind indoor track season continues at 6 o'clock tonight as George Mason University hosts the Mobil One Invitational, a meet that will feature American stars such as Greg Foster, Calvin Smith and Jackie Joyner-Kersee along with seven athletes from the Soviet Union and four from Romania.
The meet is another tuneup for the Seoul Summer Olympic Games with 40 world-class athletes scheduled to appear, but it's also one more whistle stop on a busy winter schedule.
It's the 11th of 13 meets on the Grand Prix tour, which awards $150,000 in prize money for top finishers. The top overall male and female finishers will receive $10,000 each for points accumulated during the tour, and the second- through fifth-place men and women will be awarded $8,000, $6,000, $4,000 and $2,000, respectively.
(Since track athletes aren't allowed to accept prize money and retain their amateur status, the money generally is placed into trust, the athlete will receiving it after his or her amateur career is completed.)
Competition for the money is intense, as is the running schedule. For instance, many of the athletes at tonight's meet will fly here this morning after having competed in another Grand Prix event at the Meadowlands last night.
They will then fly to Los Angeles for a Friday meet and back to New York for the Feb. 26 tour finale.
Barring late cancellations, tonight's meet will feature 40 athletes who were ranked among the top 10 in the world last year by Track and Field News. The leading events will probably be the men's 60-meter hurdles, which has six of last year's top 10 finishers -- Foster, Tonie Campbell, Arthur Blake, Jack Pierce, Soviet Igor Kazanov and Keith Talley -- plus former champion Renaldo Nehemiah, attempting a comeback after a fling at pro football.
The men's and women's 60-meter dashes will each feature five top 10 finishers. In the men's event, there is American indoor record holder Lee McRae along with Calvin Smith, Soviet Viktor Bryzgin, Thomas Jefferson and Stanley Floyd. The women's event has Merlene Ottey, Pam Marshall, Diane Williams, and Gwen Torrence.
The Soviet athletes are making one of only three American appearances. Igor Paklin has been ranked among the top three high jumpers in the world the past three years and was second in 1987. He's the world indoor champion, the European champion and the world outdoor silver medalist. He set a world record of 7-10 3/4 in 1985, the second-best ever.
Another featured Soviet athlete is Rodion Gataullin, who was ranked fifth in the world in the pole vault last year after ranking second in 1986. He cleared 19-4 1/4 last year to become the second-best Soviet vaulter ever. Only world record holder Sergei Bubka has vaulted higher. Gataullin will be matched against American stars Earl Bell, Billy Olson and Mike Tully.
Other top events include the 400-meter run, which should have Antonio McKay, the world indoor champion and American indoor record holder, and Danny Harris, who is ranked second in the world in the 400-meter hurdles. Soviet Vladimir Krylov is also scheduled to compete.
Diane Dixon, who edged Valerie Brisco in the 400-meter run last week at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden, will meet her again. However, the track at George Mason is larger and may give an edge to Brisco, who was a triple gold medalist at the 1984 Summer games.
The longer runs also have former world champions. Romanian Olympic champions Doina Melinte (800 meters) and Maricica Puica (3,000 meters) will be favored in the women's mile. Melinte ran the second-fastest indoor mile ever (4:21.45) at the Millrose Games this year, and set a new mile mark last night in New Jersey.
George Mason student Abdi Bile of Somalia will face world indoor champion Marcus O'Sullivan of Ireland and Peter Elliott of Great Britain in the men's mile. That event also will have American indoor record holder Steve Scott and Sidney Maree, who established a meet record last year with a 3:58.11.
World Records Set
VIENNA, Feb. 13 -- East German athletes today set three world indoor track records at an international meet also involving the teams of Austria and Yugoslavia.
Ronald Weigel set a world record in the men's 5,000-meter walk with a time of 18 minutes and 11.41 seconds.
Christine Wachtel won the women's 800-meter event in 1:56.40 for a world indoor record, surpassing the mark of 1:58.40.
Another East German athlete, Heike Drechsler, improved her own world long jump record with a distance of 24 feet, 2 1/4 inches.
U.S. Marks Set
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Feb. 13 -- Jackie Joyner-Kersee became the first American woman to long jump 23 feet indoors, breaking her American record by two inches tonight in the U.S. Olympic Invitational Track and Meet at the Meadowlands Arena.
Joyner-Kersee, the world outdoor champion in the long jump and heptathlon, and co-world record holder in the outdoor long jump, soared 23 feet, one-half inch.
That beat the national indoor record of 22-10 1/2 she set two years, but left her over a foot short of the world indoor record of 24-2 1/4, set earlier today in Vienna by Heike Drechsler of East Germany.
In another record effort at the meet, Brian Abshire shattered the American indoor record in the men's 3,000 meters with a time of 7 minutes, 44.57 seconds.
Romania's Doina Melinte, the 1984 Olympic champion in the 800 meters and the silver medalist in the 1,500 meters, also set a record, smashing the indoor mark in the women's mile with a clocking of 4 minutes, 18.86 seconds. That beat the old mark of 4:20.5.