Yesterday afternoon seemed too hot to participate in any activity more strenuous than walking from the sofa to the refrigerator for a glass of iced water. But nearly 400 area youngsters sweated through the 80-degree heat at Frank W. Ballou High in Southeast to complete in the Hershey's national track and field youth program.

The program, sponsored by the D.C. Receration and Park Society in conjunction with the D.C. Department of Recreation with the D.C. Department of Recreation, qualifies about 10 Washington finalists for Hershey's national championship in August in Huntington, W. Va.

"I want to go to Huntington so bad that I didn't mind running in the heat today," said 12-year old Lynda Tolbert, who pulled away from her opponents to win the 50-yard dash in 7.2 seconds.

Tolbert and the other winners will have their best times compared to those of competitors from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Deleware, New Jersey and New York. The best go to West Virginia.

Tolbert, whose idol is Wilma Rudolph, said her mother might not let her go to Huntington, even if she does qualify. "She said it's too far for me to go away from home." Tolbert said track is only a hobby and someday she wants to become a doctor, but she wouldn't mind becoming a professional track star.

She might have qualified for the trip to Huntington twice, but declined to run in her favorite event -- the 440 butit was just too hot to run in that event. And I run anchor too," she added with a smile.

While Lynda and the nine other 15-year-olds continually wiped their perspiring foreheads with the sleeves of their new beige and chocolate Hershey T-shirts, Andrellos Mitchell of Ballou acted as if it were a cool spring day.

"I don't feel especially hot today," he said. "When you're training for track or competing in an event you always get hot anyway."

Mitchell, 15, runs the third leg of the Washington 440 relay team which broke three Hershey records last year on its way to a first-place finish in Huntington.

Mitchell, along with Chucky Myles, Lionel Jackson, and captain Calvin Williams, thriled the crowd of 200 or so friends and relatives hiding from the sun under a big canvas awning by outracing an Anicostia relay team.

Vesta Woodson, city chairperson of the Hershey program, said the heat was more welcome than the rainstorms which caused two postponements of the meet last year.

Whaths all the talk about it being too hot, said 13-year old Boris Goins from Shaw High School. "I'm ready to run right now," said the agile sprinter who won the 50-yard dash with a time of 6.9 and will be old pro at Huntington after winning the same event last year.

"Nobody asks about the heat. The only thing your friends and family ask when you return home is 'What place and what time?'"