Jerome Drayton of Toronto conquered the hills of Baltimore and cruised into the Civic Center's Astro Turf-covered hockey rink to win the eighth Maryland Marathon today.

Drayton covered the 26-mile-385-yard course in 2:19.45, just 1:28 ahead of Dan Rincon of Wheaton.

Ten days ago, Drayton, the 1977 Boston Marathon winner, suffered slight ligament strains in both knees, but today it hardly showed. "I felt strong throughout the race," said the weary Canadian government worker. "The knees didn't bother me at all. I held back at first because I wanted to find out more about the course."

He didn't hold back too long. He clocked 10:10 after two miles and was in front for good. But he had some anxious moments at the infamous Satyr Hill, a 385-foot incline extending for nearly a mile. So treacherous is the hill that last year's champion, Jeff Foster, declined to run in Baltimore again, claiming, "Whoever put that hill out there? He ought to be shot."

At the hill's crest, Rincon, 27, came within 30 seconds of Drayton. But Drayton kicked up his heels and was gone. "At that point, I was closing the gap," said Rincon. "But at the 22-mile mark I started to slow up and he just continued his pace."

Drayton didn't exactly scorch the course on this mild, overcast day and finished well off Garry Bjorklund's 2:13.46.4 record set in 1978.

In the women's division, Jan Yerkes, 23, the 1980 Marine Marathon winner and the prerace favorite, had a commanding lead until leg cramps forced her to stop at the 25 1/2-mile mark. She recovered to finish third.

A surprised 22-year-old Jean Kerr of Pleasantville, N.Y., passed the ailing runner to win the women's division in a record time of 2:49.13. It was the first major marathon victory for Kerr. "She (Yerkes) just stopped, she was hurt and looked like she had cramps," said Kerr.

The defending women's champion, Marilyn Bevans of Baltimore, couldn't compete because of anemia that may end her running career. As she watched more than 3,500 runners clog East 33rd Street for the start, she said, "There are a lot of people who shouldn't be here, they're not in shape for it. But it's an annual event, so they come. But in a marathon you don't compete with anyone but you -- to finish is to win."