Two days before the New York City Marathon, George Mason University's cross country coach, John Cook, predicted that one of his runners would place in the top 10.

Ahmed Ismail, a junior transfer student from Somalia, proved Cook right by placing ninth here today in 2 hours 18 minutes 16 seconds.

Ismail, who transferred from Seton Hall to George Mason to study engineering and run track, paced himself to his best marathon time on the hottest day in the 15-year history of the race. After the fog cleared and the sun broke through the clouds, temperatures were in the mid-70s by the end of the race, and the humidity reached an unprecedented 96 percent.

The conditions did not seem to bother Ismail. The 20-year-old Somalian finished his second marathon five minutes better than his 2:23 effort in the 1984 Olympic marathon. In that race Ismail baffled running experts by leading for the first 17 kilometers, and placing 43rd.

While Ismail was by far the best Washington-area performer, it seemed for half of the race that a Maryland runner might win. However, Terry Baker of Hagerstown, Md., dropped from the lead in Queens, after 13 miles, and failed to finish.

Another area runner seeded among the 17,814 starters, Matt Wilson of Burke, Va., dropped out after running with the leaders.

The second area man to finish in Central Park was Stan Fletcher, 31, an Annapolis resident and member of the Washington Running Club. His 2:38:52 was more than 11 minutes off his best marathon, but good for 118th place.

Henry Barksdale of Washington ran 29 places back in 2:41:20, well off his best marathon of 2:18:04.

Finishing as the 10th woman and 157th overall was Laura (DeWald) Albers of Grand Rapids, Mich. The former Arlington resident struggled through the heat to a 2:42:12.

Three other area runners broke three hours. Terence Colton of Silver Spring was 211th in 2:45:37; Gust Svanson of Alexandria 437th in 2:56:39 and John Hale of Washington 438th in 2:56.39.

Carl Schuler of Silver Spring, who took sixth in the 1984 Olympic 50-kilometer racewalk, was runner-up in the racewalk category at 3:30.