Carmelita Jeter, the London Olympic relay champion and 2011 world 100-meter gold medalist, chose the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and an all-comers meet at San Diego Mesa College for her first races since the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last August.
She took bronze at Moscow, clocking 10.94 seconds despite a season in which she hurt her hamstring and quadriceps.
The Nike-sponsored Jeter, 34, lined up against an otherwise all-male field Wednesday at Mesa College. She ran 11.32 seconds, just off the 11.27 she clocked Saturday in the San Diego-Imperial USATF Open Championships in Chula Vista.
Her all-time best, 10.64, came in 2009. Only Florence Griffith-Joyner (whose records have been questioned as wind- or drug-aided) is faster.
Jeter’s latest goal?
Her first big meet of the year is next week in Sacramento — the USATF Outdoor Championships, where she is entered in the 100. The top American sprinter this season is Tori Bowie, with a time of 11.05 seconds.At Mesa College, Jeter (pronounced JET-er) was congratulated by NFL Hall of Famer James Lofton, the former Green Bay and Oakland receiver who once coached for the Chargers. Lofton, 57, ran his age Wednesday in the 400-meter dash, clocking 57.89.
All eyes were on the Glendora-based Jeter when she lined up for the 100 Wednesday night at the low-key meet (online entries cost $5).
Meet announcer and San Diego Track Club coach Paul Greer called attention to Jeter’s presence on the fast Mondo track.
She trains with former quarter-mile great John Smith at UCLA.
In her interview with Levy, Jeter said she had to sit down and heal up after her Moscow races, deciding to forgo the Team USA 4×100 relay for fear of risking further injury, especially to her quadriceps (thigh muscles).
Of Moscow, she said her coach and agent advised against competing, “but I wanted to run.”However, instead of her usual six-week postseason break, she took 10 months. And she says she and coach Smith have decided to take one-week midseason breaks going forward.
A world-class sprinter for a decade, Jeter said her recent break from competition was her most enjoyable time since 2007, “just been resting, watching TV, a lot of mental rest” and visiting with nephews, nieces, sisters and her mother.
“Not being able to participate was really beating me up,” she told Levy. But she found time for spiritual sustenance and said that, during her busy track career, “I kind of forgot that someone above me was watching.”
Now she is working on strengthening “the little muscles” that support the big ones, which were “doing all the work,” she said. “Now I’m just a little smarter.”
Despite the success of some sprinters in their late 30s — including Slovenian (via Jamaica) Merlene Ottey and San Diego native Gail Devers — Jeter is aware of the doubters.
But she told Levy: “I’m not going to leave because someone thinks I’m too old.”
She’ll race as long as she feels the competitive fires, and said: “I’ll … try to beat you in drinking some water — or eating a meal the fastest.”
Jeter, active on Twitter, recently crowed about losing 3 pounds.