SAN DIEGO — Normally a 500-yard dash doesn't get top billing in an indoor track and field meet. It's an odd distance and it's not contested outdoors.
However, when a record endures as long as the 500 record has, it gains some stature.
Lee Evans established the 500-yard record twice in 1971 at 54.4 seconds. It's only fitting that Evans has the oldest indoor record on the books because he also has the oldest outdoor record--his 43.86 in the 400 meters at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
Since Evans' 400 record was established at high altitude, it has resisted all assaults on it over the years.
But sprinters competing today in the 500 at the Michelob Invitational meet in the Sports Arena believe that the low-altitude indoor record should fall.
Gabriel Tiacoh of the Ivory Coast will be leading the charge. He was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 400 in 1986, was the silver medalist in the 1984 Olympic Games and has a best time of 44.30.
Michael Franks also has credentials. He was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1985 and won the World Cup that year in 44.47.
Others in the field with a chance to threaten Evans' record are Nigeria's Innocent Egbunike and Danny Harris, who is more renowned as a 400-meter intermediate hurdler.
Egbunike was No. 2 ranked behind Tiacoh last year with a best time of 44.50. Harris was the third-ranked 400-meter hurdler.
It would seem that Tiacoh, who formerly competed for Washington State, would have the best shot. He had nine sub-45 second races in 1986, more than any quarter-miler in history.
The 500 record doesn't have the same mystique as Evans' 400 mark, but it's still a barrier considering that only one other runner, Stan Vinson, has been under 55 seconds in the race. He had a time of 54.8 in 1973.
The 500 is one of many featured events today in a meet that starts at 11:45 a.m. A sampling:
--With Eamonn Coghlan, who has won five indoor races this season, not competing, the mile should be a competitive race. The names are familiar: Steve Scott, New Zealand's John Walker, Spain's Jose Abascal, Ireland's Frank O'Mara and Australia's Micahel Hillardt. Abascal opened up a big lead in the mile in The Times/GTE Indoor Games Friday night at the Forum, but couldn't hold it. Ireland's Marcus O'Sullivan ran him down to win in 3:56.92, just three-hundredths of a second ahead of the Spainard.
--The 1,000-yard record could also be in jeopardy. Johnny Gray will be going after his own mark of 2:04.39 that he set in the 1986 Michelob Invitational.
--Doug Padilla, who failed to catch Coghlan in the 2,000 meters Friday night when he set a world indoor record of 4:54.07, will be more comfortable today at the two-mile distance. He's the American record-holder in the event at 8:15.3.
--The pole vault field includes four members of the 19-foot club: Billy Olson, Joe Dial, Earl Bell and Mike Tully. Bell, however, is the only American vaulter to clear 19 feet indoors this season.
--Greg Foster, who set an American record of 7.48 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles in The Times meet after a terrible start, will try to break the world mark of 7.47 held by Mark McKoy.