It has become a tradition for Jason Gatson. Each year, he comes close to winning a national gymnastics championship, only to lose out to Blaine Wilson.

Gatson took a small step today toward finally catching his training partner, taking a slim first-night lead over Wilson in the all-around competition in the U.S. Gymnastics Championships at Arco Arena.

Gatson, 18, a sophomore at Colorado, won the parallel bars event with a mark of 9.95 and placed first in the floor exercise with a mark of 9.8 en route to scoring 57.325 points in the preliminary phase of the competition.

Wilson, 25, seeking an unprecedented fourth straight national all-around title, won on the rings with a mark of 9.6 en route to a total score of 57.225. He is competing despite recent problems with both shoulders -- after the pommel horse routine, Wilson rubbed his right shoulder for several seconds.

Gatson finished second to Wilson at the national championships in 1996 and 1998. He was third in 1997, behind Wilson and John Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger, 29, a two-time Olympian who won four national titles in the early 1990s, was third in the all-around competition with a score of 56.475 and Brett McClaure was fourth with 55.800 points. Guard Young, a senior at BYU, was fifth.

Today's scores count for 20 percent of the all-around competition. The remaining 80 percent will be based on scores in Friday night's all-around finals.

The top 14 men in the all-around competition qualify for the World Championships team trials, to be held Sept. 15-18 in Kansas City, Mo. That event will help choose the American squad for the World Gymnastics Championships Oct. 8-16 in Tianjin, China.

In addition to Gatson and Wilson, three other champions were crowned in individual events. Roethlisberger won the pommel horse (9.95), Young the vault (9.8) and Jamie Natalie of Ohio State the horizontal bars (9.95).