MOSCOW — Team USA has won the women's 4x400 relay at the past three track and field world championships, and Francena McCorory and her teammates intend to make it four straight in the final at Luzhniki Stadium on Saturday.
The American quartet of Ashley Spencer, Jessica Beard, Joanna Atkins and McCorory, a Bethel High and Hampton University alumna, cruised to a semifinal victory in 3:25.18 Friday to set the stage for the bid for the quad-peat.
"It won't be easy, it never is at a world meet, but you know we'll be up for it," said McCorory after bringing her team home by a 30-meter margin against Italy (3:29.62), Ukraine (3:29.63), Czech Republic (3:30.48) and India (3:38.81.) Big-time relay performances have been the forte of McCorory, a member of the gold-medal relay at the London Olympics, all along.
Russia (3:23.51) and Great Britain (3:25.39) won the other semifinals and figure to be Team USA's top competition in the final. But Jamaica, which had run second to U.S. at the last three worlds, is out of the final after being disqualified for a lane violation.
Russia is the last team other than U.S. to win the 4x400 relay, in 2005, when the Americans were disqualified for a lane violation.
"I was trying to make sure I ran a good leg, running the curve," said Atkins. "We wanted to make sure Francena didn't have to do too much. I felt good about the race. We ran well."
McCorory said, "My girls, they held me down. When I saw the baton go to Joanna, I thought, 'yes, I can jog.' They made it real easy for me. We can all rest up and get ready for the finals (Saturday)."
McCorory's 49.52-second anchor lap carried the U.S. over Jamaica in 2011 and she'll aim to run faster in this year's final.
After posting a personal-best 49.86 seconds in the 400-meter semifinals, McCorory placed sixth Monday in the final.
Also on Friday, Portsmouth native LaShawn Merritt anchored the Americans to gold in the 4x400 men's relay. The team finished in 2 minutes, 58.71 seconds, followed by Jamaica (2:59.88) and Russia (2:59.90).