"C'mon, Eric! Get those Marines!" was the cry from the infield. Responding to the cheers of his fellow Health's Angels, 9-year-old Eric Huss, who stands 4-foot-3 and weights 60 pounds, emerged from between two burly servicemen at the near turn and left the husky pair for dead on the far stretch.
Huss may have been the youngest of the 306 starters in the seventh annual Runners World Eastern Regional 24-Hour Relay ending at noon today at Mullins Field. But he was far from being the slowest in what turned out to be a record-shattering day.
Huss completed 22 one-mile legs for an average of 6:01.3 per mile. Seven of his miles were completed in under six minutes, including a 5:47 leg, and his average didn't creep above six minutes until his 19th turn.
Huss slept little during the 24-hour competition and didn't plan to retire until Sunday night. "I slept a little, but hen I ran a 6:12 (his worst leg), so I didn't sleep anymore," said Huss, who lives in Kensington. "When I get home, I'm going to get a drink, call my friends, see what they're doing, and we're (Eric and his father Ron) going to see a movie at 6 o'clock."
In the 24-hour relay, 33 teams of up to 10 members each run conecutive mile legs. The same order of runners must be maintained. A runner may drop out, but once he misses his turn, he may not return to competition.
The Southern Pennsylvania Coalition of Atheletes of York Pa. took the team title by completing 269 miles and 440 yards. Finishing second, with 267 miles and 1,320 yards was Distance Unlimited runners from Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Terry Baker of Hagerstown, Md., running for the third-place Alligator Track Club of Severna Park, turned in a record performance in individual men's competition. He completed 28 miles, and his 4:45.8 average for his fastest 25 miles legs was the fastest of the meet and 1.1 seconds better than the two-year-old mark by John Cabell.
Anthony Desir of Silver Spring owned the second fastest clocking with 4:58 for his best 25 legs.
Jill Cotten of Laurel took four seconds off the old women's mark by averaging 5:53.4 per mile and the 16-year-old also led her team, the Early Risers, to a national eight-woman team record.
The Early Risers surpassed the standard of 185 miles by the Region Rats of Indiana slightly after 10 a.m. today and cruised home to a final total of 193 miles, 1,265 yards.
The Early Risers had only seven girls as one dropped out after completing only one mile.
Jim Czachor of Franklin Square, N.Y., won the 50-mile race in 5 hours 44 minutes 3 seconds, topping the old 5:51:01 mark of Tom Osler of Glassboro, N.J. Osler finished second this year with 5:51:13.
Weaving through the masses of runners were the herky-jerky movements of the Potomac Valley Walkers, who were headed to a national race-walking mark. Their total of 168 miles, 1,700 yards bettered the old standard of 155 miles, 1,181 yards set by the Capitol Walkers, from which the Potomac Valley club descended.