DAEGU, Korea -—"I feel confident, really good," beamed Francena McCorory.
The ex-Bethel High and Hampton University flash had just breezed a lap around Daegu Stadium Saturday night in a slowish 52.18 seconds and was delighted with her effort, nowhere close to her all-time best of 50.29.
Why the happiness?
Because it advanced her into the Sunday night 400-meter semifinals at the 13th World Championships of Track and Field with a minimum of wasted energy. She placed second in her heat to Amantle Montsho of Botswana, who ran 50.95, and thus was one of four Americans cruising into the semis. This is the biggest meet of McCorory's track and field career and she's considered a definite medal prospect.
Five heats were run with the top four in each, plus the next four best times, making it into the semis. Montsho's 50.95 turned out to be the fastest qualifying time, with McCorory's USA teammates seemingly coasting, too. Sanya Richards-Ross, the defending World champion, advanced in 51.37, while Allyson Felix, winner of the 200 at the last three World Championships, moved ahead in 51.45 and Texas A&M star Jessica Beard stayed in the hunt at 52.40.
"Remember, this is just the first of three rounds," said McCorory. "The semis will definitely be faster, a whole lot faster. Guaranteed."
But Stephanie Garcia had no such luck.
Garcia, University of Virginia's ACC champion and NCAA runner-up in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase, couldn't replicate her best form and wound up a non-qualifying 9:53.47 seventh in her semifinal of the 'chase. Garcia's career best is the 9:41.12 she ran at Ghent, Belgium on July 30 but she was nowhere near that here in a race won by Milcah Chemos Cheyma of Kenya in 9:35.61. It took a 9:38.21 to advance into Tuesday's 15-runner final.
"It was really exciting....it was awesome," said Garcia of her first start at the Worlds, as a late addition to the team when Delilah DiCrescenzo, who finished one spot ahead of her at the Trials, withdrew with an injury.
""Unfortunately I didn't have pop at the very end but I tried to give it my best go. For what my experience was for this, getting a call a week and half ago, I felt I handled it the best I could."