During his first two years in high school in Albany, N.Y., Todd Orvis made two very significant strides as a runner, breaking John Trautman's freshman and sophomore state records in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters. Trautman, now a sophomore at Georgetown, was the national high school track and field athlete of the year in 1985 as well as the national record-holder.

This fall, Orvis and his mother returned to the Washington area, where he lived as a child, and he will be competing for Georgetown Prep.

"It's difficult to say how he'll do right now because he's got a little bronchial infection," said Prep Coach Mike Horsey, adding that recently, Orvis, a junior, averaged well under five minutes per mile in an interval workout.

This Saturday, Orvis will run in the high school division of the Fifth Avenue Mile, a straightaway mile down the middle of Manhattan that attracts the nation's top middle distance runners.

"He's different than I thought; he's very unassuming," said Horsey. "I kind of expected, with what he's done, he'd {have} more of a swelled head, but he doesn't. He likes to run up front. I saw him run three times last year, at the Easterns, Pathmark and the Penn Relays and he stayed up front as long as he could."

Running the mile in both the Easterns and Pathmark high school invitationals, which attract the top competitors from the Eastern seaboard, Orvis finished fourth and 10th, respectively. He was 12th in the 3,000 at the Penn Relays.

Prep also has another promising newcomer, freshman Chris Neal, a transfer from Landon. He won the Interstate Athletic Conference seventh- and eighth-grade cross country championships and is currently the third man for the Little Hoyas.

Despite the new influx of talent, though, don't look for Prep to go on an easy downhill cruise through the competition. As in the past and "like most teams, we have no fifth man," said Horsey.

Public school teams are plagued by a lack of depth but not by any lack of talent. Among girls in Class AA, nine of last year's top 10 state finishers return.

Expected to be at the top for a second consecutive year is Whitman senior Virginia Mattingly, although Coach Tom Nawrocki is downplaying her potential as a repeat champion, pointing to a series of injuries that kept her off the track during both the indoor and outdoor seasons last year.

"The pressure of being a state champion won't affect her this year," he said. "She understands she's coming off injuries, and she'll understand that when someone beats her. Her goals are to finish at the top of the state, and if she comes along, possibly she can win it again."

Nawrocki intends to hold Mattingly out of early season meets. Many other coaches plan similar delayed entries into competition, citing the extended season this year. The state meet, usually held the first Saturday in November, is Nov. 14 this year -- about 10 days later than usual.

Among the boys, Whitman junior Tom Eagelson returned in prime shape this year, expecting to take over first-man duties from graduated teammates Gary Sherman and Dave Norton. But the man to beat in Class AA again is Eleanor Roosevelt senior Greg Early.

Last year, the hazardous conditions at Hereford detracted from the expected showdown between Early and Bethesda-Chevy Chase's Tjeerd Broekman. Randallstown's Jeffrey Campbell passed them both, beating Early by 10 seconds. Broekman is in Holland for the semester, but Campbell is back. Early is ready to challenge him, if this summer is any indication.

At the Annapolis 10-miler this summer, Early clocked a 53:40. Said Roosevelt Coach Dan Rincon, "When I first saw Greg run {two years ago}, I thought he had the talent to turn out to be the best in the nation, and he's heading in that direction. He's got an excellent chance of showing himself nationally this year; that's his long-range goal."

Early's workout schedule is designed for him to peak for the Kinney nationals after the state meet. But as far as the state meet is concerned, "we want to end it on a little better note," said Rincon. "We let that one slip away last year."

The top girls runners in the state are all in Class AA, with one exception.

Laurel senior Jenny Athey, the runner-up to Mattingly last year and the defending Prince George's County champion, is in Class A this year. While the state A race has featured different stars each of the last three years, Athey can expect tough races from last year's state Class A champion, Latashia Key of North Hagerstown, and runner-up Jennifer Haas and her Magruder teammate Jenny Pawlak.

Another contender is Baltimore prep star Steffi Rausch, who has transferred from McDonough to Howard.

As if to compensate, junior Kim Many, third in the Class B state meet last year with the fifth fastest time of the day, transferred from Atholton to Kennedy, a Class AA school.

Many's running has remained unaffected. "It's different here and it will be hard for her," said Kennedy Coach Allan Bellman. "She's changed her school, her coach, her team and things will be much more competitive than in B. There will be more runners capable of beating or running with her and this could change how she runs, but from what I've seen so far, she could run with most anybody."

Bowie's Robin Quinlan and Tracy Bistay, third and seventh at the AA meet last year, return in fine condition. Coach Joe Clark is also encouraged by the increase in distance for girls this year, from 2 1/2 to three miles. "That will help Robin, in particular," he said. "She's a little better at the longer distances."

Quinlan won the title as a sophomore and, after her loss last November, compensated by winning the state indoor and outdoor two-mile titles.

Also returning in Prince George's are Eleanor Roosevelt senior Anne Criss (fifth last year) and junior Kendra Hickman (fourth last year).

"Last year, coming in, neither had tremendous experience in cross country and they struggled at the beginning," said Rincon. "But they handled more as the season went on. Now they understand how to race and probably will continue where they left off."

Most girls teams are missing the last scoring position, except Severna Park, which is why most followers point to it as the favorite.

"We lost {No.} three and four {runners from} last year and there are no new faces," said Clark. "It doesn't bode well now {for us} as a team, but Severna Park looks good. They were third last year and didn't lose anybody."

Walter Johnson's boys have jumped from Class B to AA with the addition of Woodward students, and the mix has strengthened their prospects. Junior Greg Andre, fourth in cross country and second in the outdoor two-mile last year, leads a strong team.

In Class A, Rockville's chances appear improved with the return of three runners who were injured last year. Joe Byrnes, Doug Sabel and Corey Brown, who missed most of last year, have returned healthy and in good shape.

"Right now, they're working real well," said Coach Bob Stack. "But we're going to try to avoid the early season highly competitive meets. We're going to try to peak later rather than be in the middle of things too early."