The fastest woman in the world, 2012 Olympic bronze, silver and gold medalist, and California State University, Dominguez Hills alumna Carmelita Jeter (Class of ’06, B.A., kinesiology) slowed down long enough to spend the afternoon and evening at her alma mater on Nov. 20.
During her first stop on the university’s celebration in her honor—Carmelita Jeter Day, she shared insights about some of the hurdles in her Olympic quest and of her ultimate triumph to a large crowd in the University Theatre including Toro and area high school athletes as well as fans from the campus and the community.
“I didn’t make the team in 2008. In 2007 I was the [World] bronze medalist in the 100 meters and the bronze medalist in the four-by-one [4×100], I received a nice contract from Nike and—how can I word this—I got lazy. My motivation changed,” the former Toro revealed. “I forgot how hard I had to work to make the [U.S.] team in 2007. … I went into the 2008 season with a big head.”
The shock of failing to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic team renewed her resolve.
“It hurt for a long time and that was my motivation,” she recalled. “I lost my errrr. …It took me awhile to get my errrr back. It’s about heart… that’s going to take you to the next level.”
During a generous question-and-answer session with the audience, Sheldon Allen of the Toro men’s basketball team asked Jeter how it felt to set a new 40.82 seconds world record in addition to capturing a gold medal, finishing off the efforts of her teammates in the women’s 4×100 meter relay race.
After a pause—filled with electricity and a widening grin, the “Jet” as she in known on the track, retorted, “Did you see my expression?” Drawing a big reaction and enthusiastic applause, she went on to describe how the coup went down.
“I knew we broke the world record before I even got the stick. That’s how crazy it was. When I saw Tianna Madision jump out the blocks the way she did, I said, ‘It’s over.’ …I’m watching everything because I [run] last. Alison is burning up the back stretch. She gives it to Bianca Knight. The only thing I’m thinking is, ‘Bianca, just bring me the stick, just bring me the stick.’ Bianca comes, I see her face, she puts the stick in my hand, and I literally said, ‘It’s over,’” Jeter reminisced about knowing they had won the race.
The win was even sweeter because the previous two U.S. women’s 4×100 relay teams dropped the baton during consecutive Olympic Games, in Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004.
“As I got closer to the clock, I start pointing—because we had so many doubters,” Jeter said, “It was never to be disrespectful. It was never to put any other athlete down that came behind us. It was: Women can break records, too.”
Following the discussion, the U.S.A Track and Field 2011 Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year was honored in a special reception held in Library’s fifth floor south wing, where guests such as Kevin Melchor (Class of ’12, B.S., business, sports, entertainment and hospitality) hoped to catch a glimpse of his fellow alum.
“Carmelita’s an awesome athlete. It’s always great to see alumni being successful at what they do,” Melchor said, “She really gave great insights and motivation, not only to the alumni, but to the students who go here as well as students who want to go here. It’s gives them hope that you should never give up on your dreams.”
A three-time U.S. Champion (2009, 2011, 2012) in the 100m, earning the title “fastest women in the world,” after posting a time of 10.64 seconds at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in 2009 (only the late Florence Griffith-Joyner has a better time), a three-time gold medalist in the World Championships, winning the 100m in 2011, and the 4x100m in 2011 and 2007, garnering podium finishes in countless other events in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay events, and with her dream of Olympic gold realized, Jeter returned to CSU Dominguez Hills not only to be honored, but to help ensure others have chance to realize their dreams.
“I want to thank you for making me feel special. …When you can surround yourself with loving and caring people, you’re always winning,” Jeter asserted. “Being a part of Dominguez Hills track team saved my life. And I say that because I had a great coach, Warren Edmonson, who wanted me to graduate. …He pushed me to the next level to be the athlete that I am. …The only thing I can do is try to give back to the Cal State Dominguez Hills track team because I can’t give him what he’s given me.”
With that, the most-decorated Toro athlete presented a check for $10,000 to the CSU, Dominguez Hills track team.
Immediately following the reception, Jeter continued giving of her time by acting as the honorary coach during the women’s basketball game against CSU Los Angeles. During halftime a commemorative banner in her honor was unfurled in the Torodome above center court, where it will remain.
“It feels good to know that even though I don’t attend the school anymore that the faculty, that the staff, that the athletics department, that the coaches still are cheering for me, are still rooting for me, are very happy that I went to Cal State Dominguez Hills. …they want always to make sure that I’m treated well,” she said.
Jeter, who plans to compete in the 4×100 relay race at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, said, “This is such an honor to always be recognized at Cal State Dominguez Hills, the place that it all started.”