Jeter sets sights on London in 2012

As much as she’s already accomplished, which is a lot, a gaping hole still exists in the track and field resume of Carmelita Jeter.The former Cal State Dominguez Hills sprinter, however, does have plans to remedy that next summer in London, site of the 2012 Summer Games.

“I missed the 2008 Olympics, so this is definitely the Olympics I have to be at,” she said. “I can’t wait.”

She is spurred by her failure at the U.S. Trials to qualify for the 2008 Games. That she was coming off a gold medal-winning performance at the World Championships just made it harder to deal with.

“That was very hurtful and very disappointing,” she said. “That’s definitely my motivation. I’ve done the World Championships, but not the Olympic Games. I’m missing that and I’m definitely capable of being there.”

And once Jeter does get there?

“I plan on being on the podium,” she said.

Based on her standing in the world among sprinters, Jeter would seem a near sure bet to advance out of the trials in Eugene, Ore. next summer.

Her 2009 personal best of 10.64 is second only to Florence Griffith Joyner. She also has a 10.67 to her credit and owns three of the top 10 times ever in the 100.

She ran a 10.70-second, first-place finish in the 100 at the Prefontaine Classic June 4, earning her an automatic invitation to the trials. Her winning time of 22.20 in the 200 at the Samsung Diamond League meet in Monaco July 22 earned a second invitation.

She also anchored the women’s 4 by 100 relay team that included Bianca Knight, Allyson Felix and Marshevet Myers to a victory at the IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Daegu, South Korea in August.

Jeter, 31, is not taking anything for granted, citing the tough competition she’ll be facing at the trials.

But she promises to be ready.

“Now I feel mentally ready, I just have to be physically ready for London,” she said.

She isn’t alone in her pursuit.

Jeter (appropriately pronounced “jetter”) gives much credit to her current coach, the legendary John Smith, as well as former college coach, Warren Edmonson (still  in charge of CSUDH program) and the club coach she had in high school, John King, who she is still in constant contact with.

Edmonson, an NCAA 100-meter champion at UCLA and indoor world record holder for the event in the 1970s, helped her reach a certain level, then seeing even more potential, suggested Smith take over as her coach.

With Smith, who has been her coach with Nike since 2008, doing the pushing, Jeter has reached the top level of her sport.

“John Smith is a very emotional, very wise coach,” Jeter said. “He mentally prepared me to get to this level. He really pushes everything out of you that he possibly can, but not in a mean way. It’s to be a better athlete. He only does that when he sees you’re willing to be one of the best.”

King’s approach was different, though effective, as well.

“One thing he told me was to not forget to have fun, to enjoy what I’m doing,” she said. “He was so right, because I was so focused on winning I forgot about that. I still talk to him all the time.”

It’s almost by chance she’s now a world-class sprinter instead of a point guard in basketball (younger brother, Eugene plays for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings), her sport of choice up to her freshman year at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance.

Noting her natural speed, the coach suggested Jeter go out for track in the offseason, mainly to keep busy and stay in shape.

She never went back to basketball on an organized basis.

“I just loved it because it was an individual sport where you take all the credit or all the blame,” she said.

Running simply on what she termed natural talent, Jeter did well enough to earn a scholarship to Cal State Dominguez Hills, where she set the record for most NCAA medals by a Toro track and field athlete, while also earning a degree in kinisiology.

“But I didn’t starting taking track seriously until my junior year,” she said, pointing out Edmonson did spot the potential in her.

Track is not Jeter’s only passion.

Her philanthropic endeavors include involvement with the Girl Scouts, Say No to Drugs and breast cancer awareness with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

She has frequent speaking engagements with children, most recently at Lauren Elementary in Compton, about 10 minutes from where she grew up.

Her message: What she’s accomplished, so can they.

“They see me or other athletes on TV and think we aren’t approachable,” she said. “I want them to see that we are.

“A lot of kids think you have to go to a big school to succeed. I went to a small school, so I love to tell them to stay where they are. You don’t have to be at a Division I school. You can be at a Division II, Division III, it doesn’t matter.

“One thing my dad always told me was I was going to see them (Division I athletes) when I went to meets and that I was going to beat them. And also that I was going to graduate. He was right. I remember going to those meets at USC and beating those USC girls.”

Personally she couldn’t be happier with the path she’s taken.

“My career is going in the direction I’ve wanted it to,” Jeter said. “I don’t plan to stop running any time soon, although, the only thing on my mind now is London 2012.”

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