Most of the US contingent advances to Saturday at the BMX racing world championships

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) — Two-time world champion Alise Willoughby, Felicia Stancil and Jeremy Smith led a strong American contingent at the BMX world championships Friday, cruising into the quarterfinal rounds this weekend before an appreciative home crowd.

Willoughby, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, got the holeshot in her heat and was never seriously challenged in advancing to Saturday's runs. She was followed across the line by American teammates Delany Vaughn and Lexis Colby — the top four riders in each of the heat races advanced to the next round of competition.

Stancil also won her heat, while American teammates Payton Ridenour and Carly Kane likewise advanced. All of them have a lot riding on the outcome: If they finish on the podium, they would get a nomination for the U.S. team for the Paris Games.

Most of the main world championship contenders — and those expected to compete for medals at the Summer Olympics — had no trouble advancing to Saturday, when the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will take place.

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Bethany Schriever of Britain, a two-time world champ, cruised to a win in her heat. Saya Sakakibara of Australia, a two-time World Cup champ, got the holeshot in her heat and was never threatened. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Mariana Pajon of Colombia also advanced through Friday with a second-place finish in her heat.

On the men's wide, Smith and American teammate Cameron Wood won their heats to earn quarterfinal spots, while Corben Sharrah survived a last-chance qualifier and then finished second in his heat to advance.

Defending world champion Romain Mahieu, French teammate and former two-time champ Joris Daudet, and reigning Olympic gold medalist Niek Kimmann of the Netherlands also made it to Saturday with wins in their heat races.

Kamren Larsen of the U.S. and Simon Marquart of Switzerland were among those who failed to advance.


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