WAYNE CRAWFORD is headed to North Carolina State to play defensive tackle. And perhaps compete in the shot put.

Scholarship money talks. Crawford may have to walk, although he does profess having an equal amount of love for his acknowledged No. 2 sport.

Here's the dilemma, as the Chestnut Hill Academy senior stated it yesterday after performing in midafternoon under gray skies (and, luckily, no rain) in the Penn Relays shot put against top-notch competitors from numerous nearby states: "I wouldn't say I'm better in football . . . 'Cause I'm not nationally ranked in that."

When the 6-3, 295-pound Crawford gets to Raleigh, N.C., his hope is to continue launching the shot. His future football coaches are aware of that desire, but how things will turn out is very much up for update because of the time and energy required of a Division I football player. Now, well, we're either watching the relatively formulative stages of what could become a standout career, or the final stages.

Moments after the competition involving 20 big-'uns ended, Crawford's emotions were swirling.

Yes, there was the excitement of uncorking his best throw - 58 feet, 5 3/4 inches; topping 58-even; his indoor best was 61-1 3/4 - of the outdoor season. But there was also the disappointment of having to settle for second place, especially stinging because he'd entered as the top seed.

On his next-to-last of six throws, Mike Alleman, of Scotch Plains-Farnwood, N.J., uncorked an effort of 58-8 1/2. Crawford's best had come on his second throw in the trial portion. His finals tosses were nowhere near as impressive.

Third place went to Archbishop Carroll's Tom Ciccoli, likewise a football player, at 57-5. He was the 20th seed.

A Public, Catholic or Inter-Ac athlete has not won the Penn Relays shot put since Drew Baron, of St. James, in Chester, managed 60 feet, 1/2 inch, in 1966. That school closed in June 1993.

Crawford said of his finals dropoff: "I was throwing too high. At maybe a 50-60 degree angle when it should have been 45."

He added: "I'm disappointed, but that's what happens in the shot put. You get beat sometimes. Or you beat yourself. I don't think I beat myself. I threw well. He just got it out there better."

Crawford performs the same ritual before every throw. He stands at the front of the circle, stares far into the distance, and then lightly taps the board with his foot.

Many other competitors let out grunts as they release. Crawford, who appreciates the support of his parents, Denise and Wayne, takes the understated approach. He remains quiet and barely pays attention while others are throwing, nor to their distances, because he figures he's competing against himself more than anyone else.

At one point in the trials, he said he did not want to know how his best throw translated from meters (15.82) to feet.

Crawford said he became involved in the shot put while attending John Story Jenks Elementary, in Chestnut Hill, mostly because he figured the discipline of track would help him with football. He was uninvolved during 1 year at Abraham Lincoln, then resumed upon transferring to CHA.

"Football is much more of a team sport," he said. "You get the camaraderie. You always have teammates next to you.

"Track is one of the most stressful sports. I mean, you have teammates, but unless you're in a relay, you're not really working 'with' them. You do, but you don't, have someone to lean on. Look to you left, look to your right, nobody. You're in a circle by yourself.

"I love football better . . . but honestly, I love both. I wouldn't be here if I didn't."

Carnival tidbits

La Salle's Brian Moore placed second in the javelin with an effort of 208-9, just 5 inches behind the 209-2 of Canadian Kyle Nielsen . . . Alvin Swenson (48.96) and Germantown Academy (49.25) ran sixth and seventh, respectively, in the 4 x 100 small-school consolation relay. *