Patterson Wins Challenge Title

Times Staff Writer

Carly Patterson's first trip to Southern California this year was a major success. She'd like to try her luck here again in August, at the World Gymnastics Championships at the Arrowhead Pond.

Patterson won her second major individual all-around title of the season Saturday, triumphing at the four-team Pacific Challenge competition at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Gym. Patterson, who won the American Cup individual all-around title earlier this month, accumulated 37.675 points, to 37.50 for Courtney Kupets and 37.45 for Ashley Postell.

Patterson, who moved up to the senior ranks this season, acknowledged she couldn't help but pay attention to announcements on the gym's public address system touting the upcoming world championships.

"It's kind of like, wow, when you put it as 22 weeks away, it doesn't seem so far at all," said Patterson, who trains near Dallas.

It also brings the Athens Olympics that much closer. The Anaheim competition will be a qualifying event for the Athens Games. "I've always thought about Athens. I really want to make it," Patterson said, a wide smile showing her metal braces.

Chellsie Memmel of West Allis, Wis., actually had the highest individual all-around score Saturday, with 37.725 points. However, she wasn't eligible for the all-around title because her scores were counted in only two events, uneven bars and balance beam. Floor exercise and vault were exhibitions for her.

Memmel, like Patterson, graduated from the junior ranks to the senior level this season. Patterson was 15 in February and Memmel will be 15 in June. Their emergence is another measure of the progress made by the U.S. women's program since the Sydney Olympics, when it finished out of the team medals and none of its athletes won individual medals. Kupets and Postell, both 16, won gold medals at last year's world championships on the uneven bars and balance beam, respectively.

"I felt pretty confident, but I'm still surprised," said Memmel, who is looking forward to competing at the U.S. championships in Milwaukee, not far from her home. "Competing as a senior isn't too big of an adjustment. It's just competing with everyone."

Annia Hatch's scores also counted in two events, vault and floor exercise. She had the evening's top vault score, 9.725, and Memmel had the best score on the uneven bars, 9.750. Nicole Harris had the top beam score (9.675) and Kupets had the top floor exercise score (9.600).

In the team competition, Team USA red (Memmel, Kupets, Postell, Patterson, Tabitha Yim and Annia Hatch) finished first with 151.700 points. Team USA Blue (Harris, Tia Orlando, Katie Heenan, Nina Kim, Terin Humphrey, Sarah Shire and Marcia Newby) was second with 147.500. Canada was third with 142.375 and Australia fourth at 142.300 points.

In each event, the scores of four gymnasts counted for each team.

Even though she has enjoyed remarkable success on the individual level, Patterson said she enjoys team competitions such as Saturday's event.

"I love doing team meets. They're a lot of fun," she said. "It gives you a lot of team sportsmanship."

Saturday's event also gave her more practice at climbing to the top step of the medal stand. "I had really good training and I felt as prepared as I'm going to be," she said. "I just tried to go out and hit everything. I'm just really happy."

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