Eastern Regional High School graduate English Gardner, competing in her first Olympic Games, opened up her medal bid by easily winning her heat in the 100-meter dash and advancing to Saturday’s semifinals.
Gardner, the U.S. champion and No. 2 seed at 10.74, ran 11.09 and automatically advanced to the semis as one of the top two finishers in her race. The top two finishers in each of eight heats plus the next eight-fastest runners advanced to the three semifinal races.
Gardner won her heat by a whopping 2 1/2 meters over Carina Horn of Russia, who ran 11.32 and was the slowest automatic qualifier.
The semifinals and final are scheduled for Saturday in Rio, with the semis at 8 p.m. EST and the final at 9:35 p.m.
Gardner, a native of Voorhees and a former Willingboro Track Club runner, is No. 4 in U.S. history and No. 7 on the all-time IAAF world list with her 10.74 at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.96), the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion at 100 meters, was the only runner in the first round under 11 seconds.
Here are the five-fastest qualifiers:
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce [Jamaica] 10.96
Michelle-Lee Ahye [Trinidad Tobago] 11.00
Marie-Josse Ta Lo [Ivory Coast] 11.01
Desiree Henry [Great Britain] 11.08
English Gardner [USA] 11.09