“The Jet” holds three of the top 10 fastest times ever run in the women’s 100-meter dash. She also anchored the U.S. Olympic 4×100-meter relay team in 2012. It won the gold medal and smashed the old world record.
Jeter’s personal best of 10.64 seconds in the 100-meter dash, set in 2009, is the second-fastest time ever recorded in that event. The late Florence Griffith-Joyner ran a 10.49 in 1988, the current world record. That means Missouri State’s assistant coach is the fastest living female sprinter on the planet.
Tell us about when you started running.
I didn’t participate in track and field until my freshman year of high school. I grew up playing basketball. Basketball was the choice in my house. That’s what you did. And the basketball coach my freshman year said, “You know, Carmelita, you should go out for the track team during the offseason to stay in shape.” And I did, and I never went back to basketball. So, I wonder if he is kicking himself now, saying “Ah, I lost there.”
When was the first time you realized you were really good at track?
When I made the Masters meet. It’s a pretty big (California high school) meet. … I knew that I could really do something with this once I made that meet.
What do you love about track and field?
Track and field is unique because it’s all you. It holds you accountable for when you messed around in practice, and it gives you the energy and the joy when you do something amazing because you know you earned it.
What is your favorite-ever race?
Everyone is going to think I’m going to say the 2012 Olympic Games, or when I ran 10.64. But I’m going to have to say in 2007 when I made my first road championship team out of lane one. People usually try to say lane one is the bad lane, or lane eight is the bad lane. That was a race where I came into my own.
I became a track star in that race. People think that my favorite race is when I became the fastest woman alive in 2009, or earned all these medals in 2012 and 2011, but it started in ’07 when I made that first team.
What was it like to win a race at the Olympics?
Kind of like winning the lottery, right? Definitely exciting. A chill comes across you. Anyone who has done something absolutely amazing could understand where I am coming from. And not just in sports — because everybody can be in a situation where they accomplish and conquer something. So, this could be a person who went through cancer, beat cancer, and is going through remission.
That feeling of knowing it is gone has to be pretty much identical to winning a gold medal. You know you accomplished something so great and everyone is cheering. I can’t even give justice to the feeling because it is something you really can’t express. It’s just overwhelming tears of joy and a feeling that can make you whole or can make you complete.
Some athletes may take their Olympic medals and put them in a lock box. But you’re out this year at the football game wearing them around! How often do you bring those out?
I bring them out whenever I have to bring them out. At the football game, the track and field and cross-country athletes were doing a raffle. And I said, OK, what can I do to get us some more money? You know I am always thinking big! So, I said let me bring my medals out and get the attention of people. Then my girls can walk up and ask for donations. I just used it as the piece to get you to pay attention.
You were born and raised in California. What brought you to Missouri State?
This has to be the million-dollar question I get all the time. How did you end up in Springfield?
You know, looking at the roster, I got excited about it. I love a challenge. Just like making the Olympic team. Just like winning a gold medal. Just like being a world champion. It’s a challenge. I am not competing on the track anymore, so this is me competing in another way.
How can I get these girls to know their worth, and to run in their lane and to understand how great they are?
When I came here, Coach Jordan Fife picked me up from the airport. I said, OK, so it’s the type of school where someone is picking you up. It’s not Uber, it’s more one-on-one. It’s more like family.
Do you think you will ever race again?
I have the medals, I have the second-fastest time, I have three of the fastest times ever run by a woman, and I’m OK with not being on the track. Now, my job is not to run. My job is to get the team to run, and get them to do amazing things.
Coach Jeter at Pittsburg State Invitational
Want Jeter to speak to your group?
Jeter is a motivational speaker who focuses on confidence. “Set some goals, and smash them. Whatever your job is, if you want to be at the top, hey, give yourself a plan. It takes the Olympics every four years, so how long do you think it will take you? Make your own Olympics.”
She wants to speak to groups about her philosophy, and about why the community should support MSU track and field and cross country.
“Anything to get those teams more on the scene. I want the town to wear track shirts or cross country shirts. I want you to cheer for track and field. I want you to see my athletes in the store and take a picture with them and hashtag Bear Up!”
Email Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.