DURHAM, N.C., JULY 25 -- Jacquelyn Hansen and Mary Petry are two of about 3,000 athletes who have been competing in the U.S. Olympic Festival, which has spread its web over central North Carolina for the past two weeks.

What they represent are opposite ends of the amateur athletic spectrum in this country. One is young and ambitious and would like to be an Olympic champion. The other is nearing 40, but loves to run marathons, if only to hear her feet slap the pavement. The Festivals have been designed to give both types of athletes a chance to compete in an Olympic setting.

Hansen is 38 and from Topanga Canyon, near Los Angeles. The first Olympic women's marathon was won by Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1984, but Hansen was one of the pioneers in the 1970s. Hansen still runs because it makes her feel good.

"There are racers and there are runners," she said. "My husband is a racer. If he couldn't race, he'd never run again. I'm definitely a runner. I just love to run."

Hansen finished ninth in the half-marathon Friday night, but wasn't upset, especially after she realized midway through the race that the girl she was running next to was young enough to be her daughter.

Asked if it bothered her to be ninth out of 12 runners, she cheerfully respond, "It wasn't nine of 12 -- it was ninth best. It was ninth best in the country tonight."

Petry, who will be a freshman at Annapolis High School this fall, is 13, the youngest swimmer at the Festival. She wasn't born when Mark Spitz won seven Olympic gold medals in 1972 in Munich. The swimmers at the Festival all are under 18, and unlikely to be part of the U.S. team that goes to Seoul next year. But by 1994, this group could make up much of the U.S. Olympic team. Petry won four gold and one bronze medals here, and, after taking the 100-meter freestyle, she said, "Older does not necessarily mean better."

It had been a year and a half since former Maryland basketball coach Lefty Driesell coached a team in this state, having been forced to resign last October in the wake of Len Bias' death. When he was stomping and yelling and gyrating as the Terrapins' coach, he was the favorite target of abuse by fans in this area. Having gone to Duke, where he was targeted in later years for some of the worst ribbing, he always wanted to beat the Tar Heels of North Carolina. But in some strange, perhaps misguided way, he became a hero at this Festival. The crowds at Smith Center -- named for his nemesis Dean Smith -- gave him a strong round of applause when he was introduced before his first game. The 13 months of drug problems and academic trouble at Maryland seemed not to matter.

"My reputation is fine," Driesell said. "If anything, maybe my reputation has improved."

It has been hot. Real hot. The sacred tobacco crop has been threatened by near 100-degree temperatures and lack of rain. If it is wiped out, would there still be a Tobacco Road?

"I love the humidity," said three-time Olympian sprinter Harvey Glance, who grew up in Alabama. "And we're getting plenty of it."

What's ironic is that one of the most important competitions here, ice hockey, is a winter sport. The tournament is used as the first cut for the 1988 Olympic team. It's a bit of a jolt to walk from the parking lot, where it is 95 degrees, to inside Greensboro Coliseum, where it feels about 55.

With the amateur sports calendar full in this pre-Olympic year, many top athletes are not here. In some sports, such as wrestling and weightlifting, the Festival was used to choose Pan American and world championship teams. But in others, such as track and field, gymnastics and swimming, most of the top athletes are elsewhere, competing or preparing for other competitions.

Along with Glance and other runners at a news conference, Diane Williams discussed the possibility of a world record for the U.S. women's 4x100-meter relay team that has been put together for the world championships in September in Rome. That meet -- and not the Festival where the relay team also will run -- is what most track and field performers are looking toward.

Williams was asked if the fans here would get to see a world record performance. She must have realized a record was nearly impossible, but she didn't want to discourage people from coming to the event.

"We haven't had the opportunity to train and run together like the East German team {that holds the record} has," she said. "So to say we'll be running {at the Festival} for a world record would be hard."

At Philadelphia's Central High School, William Reed used to train for the 400 meters by running in the halls and through the cafeteria. Asked if he had ever been injured on the route, Reed said, "I once turned an ankle sliding on somebody's sixth-period lunch."

Like the Olympics, Festivals are very patriotic, and somebody invariably pulls out an American flag to wave at no one in particular.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" was performed in a number of fashions. Played, sung and even whistled -- at the boxing finals.

Normally, only the first of four verses of Francis Scott Key's famous song are sung. But before the first men's basketball game, a local Baptist church choir continued past the first and sang the second, without any notice. Few understood what was going on or why. Driesell later called it a beautiful rendition, but, before the choir had finished, many in the stands just sat down. After all, there was basketball game awaiting . . .

This Festival will set a record in overall attendance and for many of the individual sports. For some, like basketball, that is to be expected. But records have also been set in archery, shooting, roller skating and judo.

Some athletes and officials of less-known sports think the Festival can be a steppingstone to national popularity.

Said one observer: "Some of these people are like missionaries. They think they need only one or two things to go right and they'll replace baseball as the national pastime."