Even in world-class track and field, it helps to have a rooting interest. The crowd of 5,200 at the Mobil 1 Invitational yesterday was noticeably quiet -- except when host George Mason University was involved in relay events.

The loudest cheers of the day followed the Patriots' 4x400-meter relay team as it scored a notable victory over Auburn in 3 minutes 11.73 seconds.

Spectators suddenly leaped to their feet as Anthony Wallace of Jamaica roared into the lead with a sensational 47-second second leg. Few sat down as Corey Cokes, a Hayfield High product, and Patrick O'Connor of Jamaica, with a 47.1 anchor, made the advantage stand up. The leadoff was Shawn Vass of Richmond.

Earlier, George Mason's 4x800-meter relay team stirred up the home folks by holding off defending champion Villanova in 7:32.58. The team was composed of Jamaican Marsha Tomlinson, Todd Rosenberg of Stonewall Jackson High, Mike Meyer of Lake Braddock High and producer of the best split of 1:51.6, and Mario Vernon-Watson of Jamaica. Well Off the Pace

There is a tradition in track and field that the most important thing for an athlete is to finish his race, no matter how far he trails the field. Still, it seems somewhat sad to see great champions plodding home long after a race has been completed.

Such was the fate yesterday of Tatyana Samolenko, the Olympic 3,000-meter champion from the Soviet Union. Samolenko, who took time off to have a baby last year, finished last in the women's mile, 12 seconds behind ninth-place Alisa Harvey-Hill. Friday at the Millrose Games in New York, Samolenko was somewhat closer, but still 10th and last. . . .

Diane Dixon, 26, won her fourth consecutive Mobil 1 400-meter title in 52.30 seconds.

"I like to dominate things," said Dixon, who said she expects to run another 10 years. Record-Setters

Two U.S. records were set yesterday: Larry Almberg of Washington led from start to finish to capture the masters mile, for runners 40 and over, in a U.S. indoor record of 4:16. The runner-up was Wilson Waigwa of Kenya, who had set a world indoor record of 4:13.05 in Friday's Millrose Games. The women's walk was won by Debbie Lawrence in 6:30.72. The previous record was 6:34.20, set by Maryanne Torrellas in 1988.