For the past four years, an elite running group known as the Reebok Enclave has been training at Georgetown University, with the focus on the 1996 Olympic Games.

Georgetown track coach Frank Gagliano had envisioned forming such a group for years, but never had the time or the resources to organize it.

"I always thought that the American athlete was neglected after he left college," Gagliano said. "At the beginning of the primes of their lives in the sport of track and field, they had nowhere to go.

"A lot of them can't be great when they're 21, 22. I always had a dream that when I retired, the thing that I would really love to do is coach a group of post-collegiates."

Three of the runners from the group will be competing in the Mobil Invitational on Saturday at George Mason University. Former Hoyas Steve Holman, along with former Navy Midshipman Ron Harris, will race in the 3,000 meters and former Hoya Rich Kenah will compete in the 800 meters.

Few American middle-distance runners have done well in major international competition. Since 1972, in distances from 800 to 10,000 meters, U.S. men have won only eight medals in the Olympics and world championships, and just one gold. U.S. women middle-distance runners have won only five medals -- two golds -- in those meets.

The Enclave borrowed its name from a phrase coined by marathoner Frank Shorter. Shorter felt that if the country's top track athletes trained together, they would push each other to perform better than if they trained individually. He called this "the enclave effect." Bob Lesko, a Yale graduate who trained with the group in its early days, attached the name to the D.C. group in 1991. The Enclave began informally in 1991 when Georgetown runners Pete Sherry and John Trautman graduated, then decided to stay in Washington to train under Gagliano for the 1992 U.S. Olympic trials. They soon were joined by fellow Hoyas Holman and Kenah.

With that core group, Gagliano said he decided not to wait for retirement. "I said, Well, it's time to get it started now.' "

Gagliano invited some recent graduates of Princeton, Stanford and Yale to train with the group. Together with a few post-collegiate women being trained by Georgetown Coach Ron Helmer, they made the early nucleus of the Enclave.

Trautman and Holman made the 1992 U.S. Olympic team in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, respectively. Sherry was a finalist in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the U.S. Olympic trials. Soon the Enclave began attracting runners from across the country. Its ranks have swelled to 17 men and eight women and includes five National Collegiate Athletic Association champions and 12 all-Americans. In 1993, Gagliano obtained seed money from New Jersey businessmen Frank Argano and Andy Muldoon to hire two-time Olympian Matt Centrowitz as a coach.

Both were runners under Gagliano at Rutgers in the late 1970s and are now Wall Street professionals. Gagliano began contacting athletic shoe companies about supporting the Enclave and Reebok picked up the sponsorship last year.

Of all the members, Holman had the most success in 1994. He was ranked first in the United States in the 1,500 meters/mile by Track and Field News and had the fourth- fastest mile in the world last year -- 3 minutes 50.91 seconds. Five others were ranked in the top 10 in the United States last year in different events: Kari Bertrand, ninth in the 1,500, 10th in the 3,000; Ron Harris, third in the 5,000; Kenah, eighth in the 800; Kelly Rabush, 10th in the 1,500; and Juli Speights, fifth in the 1,500.

The Enclave trains three days a week under Gagliano, Helmer and Centrowitz -- two days at Georgetown's Kehoe Field track and the third along the C&O Canal tow path.

The coaches also consult with the runners about individual training schedules that are fit around work and studies the rest of the week. That includes 50 to 60 miles per week for the 800-meter specialists and between 70 and 100 miles per week for the longer distance runners.

Most members do two runs a day five days a week, with a long run on Sundays of up to 18 miles, often in small groups. Many do weight and strength training and Gagliano said some work with sports psychologists.

Enclave members compete in winter indoor track, summer outdoor track, fall cross-country and road racing year-round. If the times are fast enough, there's also the Grand Prix circuit in Europe.

But Gagliano stresses that the Enclave is about more than running. "The whole philosophy, my philosophy, of having this group of men and women is that they graduate from college, that they come to Washington, D.C., to work and or go to graduate school," he said. "You don't want them just sitting around thinking of running. This is more than just a track club."

The physical and time demands of training prohibit most Enclave members from working full-time. If they do, it's at jobs with flexible hours.

"I have no intention of leaving here until I go to the Olympics," Colleen Kelly, a 1994 graduate of the University of South Alabama who joined last fall. "I'm here until the year 2000."

Keeping this many top level individual athletes together can be difficult. "Maybe I'm bragging a little bit but nobody has the same large group of top-level runners training together," said David Strang, a 1991 Stanford graduate and the only foreign member of the Enclave (he's from Scotland).

"Ten guys can break four minutes for the mile. I mean, that's unheard of. I mean, 10 guys who can break four minutes for the mile and can actually get on with each other?

"You're dealing with a sport that can have a lot of prima donnas, a lot of in-fighting. That's what breaks up a lot of groups. It's a tribute to {Gagliano} and it's a tribute to {Centrowitz}." CAPTION: Former Georgetown standout Steve Holman (above) is hoping to continue his recent success with the Georgetown-based Reebok Enclave and earn a spot on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. Kelly Rabush (below left) and Cheri Goodard are among eight women inthe elite running club that was created in 1991.