Finishing fourth in one of the world's most prestigious water skiiing events and 13th in another would be a thrill for most, but Russell Gay returned from Melbourne two weeks ago disappointed.

His willingness to settle for nothing less than the top some day may catapult the Stafford High junior to the world championship of trick water skiing. For now, he will have to be content with the junior national title he won last summer, and the fourth and 13th finishes in the junior and senior Moomba Masters.

"I was hoping to do better in Australia. I expected to win the juniors and place better in the seniors, which has the world's 20 best skiers," said Gay, who runs cross country for Stafford in the fall and pole vaults in the spring. "I fell once in both the junior and masters. It the competition was held on a river, and I had never skiied on a river before."

Gay learned to ski eight years ago from his father Gordon, who still competes on the national level in slalom, jumping and tricks. They ski at Lake Anna, but the younger Gay will spend this summer in Orlando, Fla., at the Bill Peterson Ski School. His next major event will be the United States Masters in Calloway Gardens, Ga., in July.

Robinson High School has lost a student counselor, but the Dallas Cowboys hope to gain a much-needed offensive tackle if Joel Patten makes their club this year.

Patten, 28, a Robinson and Duke University graduate, had been working at the school since the fall and helping Coach Nick Hilgert with the football team. He previously had returned in the fall to assist Hilgert when Patten played spring football for two years with U.S. Football League Washington Federals.

Patten, at 6 feet 6 1/2 and 285 pounds, weighs 30 pounds more than when he spent his first two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He left his job at Robinson earlier this month to concentrate on workouts.

Patten became a free agent after playing last season with Orlando of the USFL.

"It is a great opportunity to go to Dallas," said Patten, who lives in Fairfax City with wife Betsy and their 18-month-old son Jake. "I don't think they would have signed me if they weren't serious."

For all those who have seen Carmen Mann display her versatility around a track and wondered what more she could do, the Falls Church senior answered by finishing second in the pentathalon at the recent Pathmark National Scholastic Classic at Princeton, N.J.

Mann scored all of Falls Church's points as the team finished second in the Virginia AAA state indoor meet. She won the long jump at 19 feet 1/2 inch, and finished second in the high jump and fourth in the 55-meter hurdles.

At the Pathmark pentathalon, she scored 3,566 points, surpassing the previous meet record of 3,400. The winner had 3,672.