Although the actual finish times proved otherwise, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) claimed victory in yesterday's Nike Capital Challenge Race in East Potomac Park.

"Everyone on my team works in our office and we're all Minnesotans," said Boschwitz. "Those other teams were full of ringers, fakers, cattle rustlers and professionals."

Boschwitz turned out with 21 House members, nine senators and about 450 Hill staffers, journalists and bureaucrats for the annual three-mile benefit run around Hains Point for the Special Olympics.

Not all the strategy was athletic. White House Director of Communications Pat Buchanan patted himself and his team, Reagan's V-Toes, on the back. "It was an excellent race. We stayed on the far right of the course, but then we have a tendency to do that."

Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) was a bit disappointed with this year's race. "I came in slower than last year, but then I am a year older," said Garn. Maybe it was all that time in space.

Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit was on hand as the starter of the race and joined the runners once the race had begun.

"I thought they were just joking when they said she was going to run," said competitor Paul Morse of U.S. News & World Report. "She was shaking hands with senators and congressmen as she passed them."

"That was the whole point," said Benoit. "For me it was just a social run." She added that she didn't want to run competitively since she will be running in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Cheered on by the small crowd and the snappy tunes of the U.S. Army band, the racers gave it all they had. Hill staffer Scott Celley, 25, last year's overall champ, won the race again this year with a time of 14:30, five seconds slower than the record he set last year. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) took the title of fastest man in the Senate with the time of 18:48, beating last year's winner, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).

Lugar said he knew the competition would be stiff, remarking in a prerace interview, "Last year I was the fastest senator, but this year I'm not so sure. I can see the glint in their eye."

The House was a little slower than the Senate -- its top performer, Rep. Bob Edgar (D-Pa.), finished in 19:32. "Last year I lost to a Republican," said Edgar. "I couldn't let that happen again."

Patty McGovern, who, like Celley, ran for Slade's Striders, captained by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), was the fastest woman with the time of 16:00, and Rep. Claudine Schneider (R-R.I.) held onto the title of fastest woman in the House, finishing in 25:12.

Overall winners Celley and McGovern do not work for Gorton but respectively for Reps. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) and Stewart McKinney (R-Conn.), but that didn't seem to matter to anyone but Boschwitz. Race organizer Jeff Darman said there was no official requirement for political or staff unity on a team, though team members were encouraged to come from the same side of the Hill.

"We object strenuously," said Boschwitz in high dudgeon.

While sipping Perrier and gulping down the official race food of croissants and orange slices, the racers watched Carl Davis, East Coast counsel for Nike, present a check for $2,000 to Bob Montague, executive director of the Special Olympics. Another check representing the sum of all the $15 entry fees "is in the mail," Davis said.

Prizes and plaques were given to all the winners with special awards for best and worst team name. The Department of Energy's Nuclear Waists, headed by Deputy Secretary of Energy Danny Boggs, was judged the best. Worst was Regula Running Makes Us Ralph, a team named after Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), who did not run, probably because of the name.

"This was a spectacular race," said Carl Davis of Nike. "It's nice to see leaders of government talking to Joanie Benoit, asking for signatures and running advice. It's nice to see government leaders with heroes."