KANSAS CITY, MO., JUNE 19 -- Scott Johnson of Lincoln, Neb., scored 57.5 points in the optional exercises tonight to win the men's competition in the McDonald's U.S. Gymnastics championships.

Johnson's total points of 114.70 in the optionals and compulsories edged Charles Lakes of Newhall, Calif., who had 112.65. Tim Daggett, the defending national champion, finished third with 112.45 points in his first competition since suffering a career-threatening neck injury last February.

Johnson, a 5-foot-3 native of Cincinnati, led after the compulsories Thursday with 57.20 points. His only flaw in the optionals came on the dismount on the horizontal bar, his last event.

"Personally, I've never been ranked No. 1 anywhere. This is a great accomplishment to know that you are the best in the country in what you do," said Johnson, 25. "It's an honor that I've never had the privilege to hold. Now I can say my gymnastics career is totally complete -- except for one thing, an Olympic gold medal."

Johnson began gymnastics in 1972 and competed at the University of Nebraska, where he earned a degree in public health. He placed sixth overall in the 1987 McDonald's Challenge and won 22 medals at the U.S. Olympic Festival, more than any other athlete in any other sport.

The top 18 finishers won spots on the U.S. national team to compete in the Pam American Games in August. This four-day competition for men and women, which concludes Sunday, is the first step in selecting the 1988 Olympic team.

Following Daggett in fourth place was another Nebraskan, Kevin Davis. In fifth place was Mike Rice of the University of Oklahoma, followed by Tom Schlesinger of the University of Nebraska.

The women's competition will conclude Sunday with the top 20 women competing for spots on the U.S. national team.