For years, senior Tom Murphy tried to get out of St. John's College High School, a military academy in Northwest Washington.

He hated it, all of it, from the polished brass and tailored uniforms to the butch haircuts.

"I'm just not a militaristic person," he says. "A few years ago, it was a big deal when President Ford invited the St. John's band to perform at the White House. That's not my idea of fun."

This year, he finally persuaded his parents to allow him to attend Bethesda-Chevy Chase for his senior year. Despite his parents' fears, he didn't think B-CC would be too undisciplined for him.

At B-CC, Murphy busted loose - "ran wild," he says, "and had the time of my life."

He worked hard and kept his grades up, he says, to convince his parents that B-CC was worthwhile. But he also ran cross country track in the fall and high jumped in the spring. He ran the 440, the 880 and the mile relay to boot.

And he let his hair grow over his ear.

"At St. John's I was considered a rebel, I didn't always shine my shoes properly and my brass didn't always sparkle," Murphy says. "A couple of times, I had to stay after school because I was considered unkempt."

"At. St. John's, I was this crazy outcast who didn't always get his hair cut and complained about trivial restrictions," he says. "Here I was a normal kid, almost conservation. Things is there are so many different types of people here that labels are almost meaningless."

The Chevy Chase resident says he values B-CC's breezy learning environment most of all.

"The main emphasis you find there is on learning not how you sit in a chair or how you look," he says. "You'll see a kid up in a tree at B-CC but more than likely he'll have a book in his hands." CAPTION: Picture, TOM MURPHY . . . busted loose and "ran wild."