Climbing the stairs to the 10-meter platform for her last dive, Mary Ellen Clark's only thought was to attack the tower that has alternately scared and thrilled her for 26 years.

If she was going to fail to make a second straight Olympic team, Clark wasn't going to chicken out trying.Already in the last eight months she had overcome another case of vertigo, a terrifying and mysterious condition that causes dizziness and could have ended her diving career.

So one last plunge off a platform that is equivalent to a three-story building was much less worrisome.

Trailing 18-year-old leader Becky Ruehl by seven points, Clark pulled off a solid backward 1 1/2 somersault with 2 1/2 twists to win the platform title in the U.S. Olympic diving trials Saturday.

"I just wanted to go after it because if I was going to be tentative, I would be kicking myself for the rest of my life," she said.

Hurtling into the water at 31 mph, Clark emerged to see the scoreboard light up with six marks of 9.0 or better, giving her the title with 865.08 points.

In the men's 10-meter platform, Patrick Jeffrey led after the preliminary round in his bid to make his second Olympic team eight years after competing in the Seoul Games.

Jeffrey of Madison, N.J., had 455.46 points going into Sunday's final two rounds.

David Pichler of Butler, Pa., the current national platform champion, was second with 449.31. Troy Dumais of Ventura, Calif., the youngest men's competitor at age 16, was third with 430.65.

Clark, 33, qualified for next month's Atlanta Games, where she is the defending bronze medalist. She missed most of last year with vertigo.

Ruehl, of Lakeside Park, Ky., finished second to earn the other Olympic berth in her first trials. Ruehl, the current national platform champion yet a relative newcomer to international competition, totaled 857.94 points.

Eileen Richetelli of Milford, Conn., the leader through the preliminary and semifinal rounds, botched her fourth dive to drop from first to third, where she finished with 844.71 points. Only the top two finishers qualify for the Olympics.

Clark's victory wasn't without suspense, just like in the 1992 trials when she came from behind to earn the second Olympic berth by just five points over the third-place finisher.

"This is a little sweeter because of the personal challenges I had in '95 and the total comeback," she said. "I'm so psyched for my dad. He gets to watch an Olympic Games."

Clark's father, Gene, missed seeing her medal-winning performance at Barcelona when he underwent quadruple bypass surgery prior to the games. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer in April and interrupted chemotherapy treatments to travel to Indianapolis for the trials.