"There is no such thing as the 'world's fastest human,'" said U.S. dash man Harvey Glance.

"The fastest sprinter changes constantly. Guys appear, set records, then burn themselves out and disappear.

"But over the last four years, I'll tell you who's been the world's most consistently fast human - it's me."

These Pan American Games have been a typical Harvey Games experience - excellent, effortless, medal-winning, yet frustrating.

The fastest 100-meter time of these Games - a new Pan Am record - was Glance's mark of 10.12 seconds, set in trials.

However, in Sunday's final - in the first big showdown of the speed duels between the U.S. and Cuba that promise to be the dramatic highlight of these Games - Glance was beaten by a step at the tape by Cuba's Silvio Leonard.

That is the story of Glance's track life, it often seems - eminently consistent in a sky full of meteors, yet almost always a step short of glory.

Perhaps Glance is too sane to prosper in the superpsych, jive-and-dive fast lane of the sprints where first and last place are separated by hundredths of seconds.

"Sometimes I think I'm in the wrong event," says Glance. "Anybody can run in a straight line . . . There's nothing to work on . . . the first rule is you can't think in a sprint.

"I wish sometimes that I was in a technical event like Renaldo Nehemiah (hurdles), a growing event where you could study and make a breakthrough in technique."

Instead, Glance, who is perennially among the very fastest in the world, but never seems to be king, has had to settle for a temperate consistency - an unheard of idea in his specialty.

"If you lined up all the American sprinters of the last 20 years, I would be the one who is utterly different, absolutely out of place," said Glance, a quiet, gentle soul in a dash man's world of bombastic words.

"I don't believe in the 'sprinters war.' I don't have to psych myself for two days, or come to the line with my eyes wide. You hear all the guys woofing about. 'I'm gonna beat you tonight.'

"Then they come out of the blocks just shug-shuggin' with those arms pumping like madmen. They just run on natural talent until the talent burns out. It doesn't take long.

"When they lose, it eats at them. To sprinters, the whole world is ego, to be the top gun, blow everybodyy down."

Some say that Glance lacks the last preeminent level of heart or guts to make it to the top of the mountain. Or that when talent was given out, he came up a smidgen shy.

Glance thinks that he is running the short races for the long haul. Other names flicker and fade. He wants his to last a decade - an eternity for a sprinter.

"I'll never be disappointed with first second or third place. Give me my medal. This is a game of give and take. If I run my 10.1, 10.1, 10.1 in race after race, I'll get mine. What am I going to do? Run faster than I can humanly run?

"I want to keep my natural ability channeled within my form so I use as little of myself as I possibly can. That's why I can run 50 indoor meets, then 18 outdoor meets. That's why I've stayed at the top for four years," said Glance, who seems to be 32 years old, not his actual 22.

In this sport of explosion where no runner dares take a breath after the gun, Glance is a master of still seconds.

"You're going to make one mistake after another, but you have to keep studying them," says Glance. "And they are mistakes so small that it drives you crazy.

"Against Leonard, for instance, I was hot as a firecracker in the trials and beat him. But in the finals I felt like I had old wind in me that needed to be blown out. Maybe I needed a preliminary heat to get warm.

"I dien't run a perfect race, which is what Leonard and I know that we have to do against each other.

"Between the 40- and 50-yard mark, I lost my acceleration for perhaps one or two hundredths of a second. It was just an simultaneous loss of a kind of rhythm that's hard to explain.

"That let Silvio inch in front. And you know us sprinters, when we get ahead, even you toenails kick in. You can't play catch-up in a dash. The first mistake loses."

In another event, or another sports, where consistency is a jewel, Glance might be a household word. In track, he sometimes doesn't get a second glance. It is a bit wishful to think that Glance - always on the money, leaning into the tape in a photo finish for one of the top spots - will hit one of those firecrackers days in the Olympics.

Perhaps the latest dash flash, Houston McTear, has had problems and is inconsistent. As Glance says, "Tear has to have some coach to boosh his ego, strengthen his mind."

But, if it is not McTear, won't it always be someone?

"It'll never bother me," says Glance, who may yet get his gold in the 400-meter relay on Thursday. "My rule is no gloom, no depression. I'm going to be around a long time." CAPTION: Picture, Cuba's Silvio Leonard, winner of 100-meter dash, raises arms of Americans Harvey Glance, lef, and Emmit King. UPI