George Mason University's cross country team passed what its coach termed "a major milestone for our program" yesterday in upsetting highly regarded Georgetown on the Hoyas' course.

The Patriots placed three runners, all underclassmen, among the top four finishers in the meet that included Howard University and the Quantico Marine Base. George Mason's Dave Romaine, a sophomore from Newport News, Va., won the 5.2-mile race in 26:31, 10 seconds ahead of teammate Jon Babcock, a sophomore from Langley High School. Olympian John Gregorek of Georgetown, a heavy favorite, finished third at 26:47, ahead of GMU junior Chuck Wimberly in 27:10.

George Mason finished ahead of Georgetown, 20-38, in head-to-head competition and trounced Quantico, 19-40, and Howard, 15-50.Georgetown finished second with a 23-34 score over Quantico and a 15-50 victory over Howard, which was fourth behind the marine team.

Both Romaine and GMU Coach John Cook credited a change in tactics for the victory.

"I knew we couldn't get in a duel in the last mile with their big guy," Cook said of Gregorek, a 3,000 meter steeplechaser on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. "He's a 3:56 miler, you know, and he's got an awesome kick. The last thing we wanted to do was get in a kicking race with John, so I told Dave to go out early and get a lead right away."

Romaine admitted afterward he prefers to "hang with the lead pack, then run hard the last mile. I'm a miler, so that's what I would rather do. It's just that, in this case, I had to adjust because Gregorek is a better miler."

Romaine established a healthy lead in the first mile and gradually increased his margin. Babcock surprised most onlookers by outdueling Gregorek in the last mile.

Both George Mason and Georgetown competed without their No. 2 runners, Matt Wilson and Kevin Byrne, who were injured.

"Georgetown has a great tradition in cross country, and for a young program like ours, this was a big victory," said Cook, in his third year at the Fairfax school. "This was the first time we've ever beaten them. I have to say I'm very pleased."