USATF Q&A with Carmelita Jeter and Matt Tegenkamp

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    Ryan
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    USATF on Thursday hosted a press conference with 2007 World Outdoor Championships 100m bronze medalist Carmelita Jeter and Matt Tegenkamp, the American record holder outdoors over 2 miles and the defending USA Indoor champion in the men's 3,000m. Both will compete this weekend at the 2008 AT&T USA Indoor Track & Field Championships, the final stop of the 2008 Indoor Visa Championship Series.

    Below are excerpts from Thursday's press conference. For complete bios of Jeter and Tegenkamp, visit the Athlete Bios section of http://www.usatf.org

    Carmelita Jeter

    Q: You are known for having a strong final 50m in the 100. Are you trying to work on your start during the indoor season?

    A: We were running to work on my start, but apparently I'm still doing the same thing, coming on at the end. Last year I was second here in 7.17 [at the 2007 AT&T USA Indoor Championships]. This year I haven't quite run close to that [time]. It has a lot to do with when me and my coach sat down, he didn't want me to run the indoor season. He wanted me to focus on Beijing, but I wanted to run indoors. I don't like to train so long with nothing to look forward to. He said if you run indoors I'm not backing off of you [in training load]. You're going to be tired, your legs are going to be heavy. I just wanted to get out of practice a couple of times. My times haven't been that great because I'm tired when I go to these races.

    Q: Have you changed since your medal performance in Osaka, at the World Championships?

    A: I've changed a lot, how I look at myself. I give myself more credit, and I have more confidence when I step on the line. Before Osaka I was still the kid looking up to the stars. I really put my race together mentally and physically at Osaka to where I know now that I am just as good as anybody else and I can run with the best of them. I think after Osaka a lot of people gave me credit. 'OK, she's good. I think there are still people who think I got lucky, too.

    Q: Your breakthrough last year in Osaka came relatively late in your career, at age 27. How did you keep training for so long and pursuing your goals?

    A: It was my [then] coach, Warren Edmondson, who really kept me in it. I was at a moment and point when I didn't want to run anymore. I had a reoccurring hamstring injury for 3 years in a row. He actually picked me up off the track. I was crying because I was hurt again. He said no, you need to get there before you decide you don't want to be there. That was at the Home Depot Center in 2004, right after the Olympic Trials. I had just given up. I had done so well in college, but my senior year I started to get the hamstring injury

    . It went through about 2005. I started to go to the Deep Tissue Center in Norwalk, Calif. Danny, he was literally working on my leg twice a week. It took about a year for my leg to get right. [Jeter has been coached since last spring by Larry Wade.]

    Q: Have your goals changed?

    A: I think I've changed because before Osaka, I just wanted to make the final. Now I want to be in the hunt. I want to go and get it. I'm no longer satisfied with being there. I want to be with the top group. I will be very disappointed if I'm not in the hunt.

    Q: Have you analyzed your race in Osaka?

    A: I've watched that race at least 200 times. At first when I looked at the screen and looked up I was excited that I got a medal. Then it goes from you're happy you have a medal to everybody's telling you what you could have done to win the race. Now it goes from 'I just got a medal!', to 'I could have got a different medal!' I was thinking as soon as we left doping control that if I would have started better, if I would have leaned more … It was such a close race. If you look at it, my leg went out first [over the finish line]. By the legs, I would have won. But the rest of my body didn't win. Now in all my races lately, I have the best lean in the world. I won Fresno, Millrose and Tyson with this lean I've been working on in my house. I'm literally running through the doorway and leaning [around the house].I keep the medal in my jewelry box. I look at it every day when I put my jewelry on and when I take it off. It reminds me, this is what you did and this is what you need to do next. It reminds me every day before I go to practice, and the last thing at night, why I was gone all day and why I'm here at night.

    Q: Talk about the women's 100m in the U.S. right now.

    A: Sprinters in the US, we have so much depth. We have college girls running so fast, and then women who are professional running fast. You really have to be on you're 'A' game to make the team or to qualify for certain races. You can't sleep on anyone right now. We're all in the same bunch. There is nobody overly exceeding other people. A slip at the start or a slip in the race allows the next person to come up and win.

    Q: What do you do off the track?

    A: I have a younger sister who's 10 [Keishawna Miles] who just started running track. I like to go watch her and I try not to critique her too much. She's my little shadow. She always seems to have on some of my track stuff when I pick her up from school. She's keeping me busy, watching her meets. Last year I was assistant athletic director and track coach at my alma mater, Bishop Lawrence. I'll do it through this spring. They've been so good to me since I went back there in 2004. I remember running track in high school, and track was fun. I want kids to have that understanding. I don't want to make it a job until it has to be a job.

    Matt Tegenkamp

    Q: Last year was a breakthrough year for you, including an American record and placing fourth, nearly getting a medal in the 5000m at the World Championships. How have things changed for you?

    A: I never really shied away from the competition, but there's a difference between thinking it and actually doing it. Last year was a big breakthrough for me in terms of finishing with the top runners of the world. Literally finishing with them over the final 200 meters.

    Q: How did you feel when you realized you were fourth in Osaka (.03 out of third)?

    A: I was gaining on him. If I had another half-step, I would have had it. From my perspective I had it. When I saw it on the scoreboard I was fourth, I was a little disappointed. It was the worst going through the media tunnel [mixed zone]. That's where you get more disappointed. As I talked to family and friends and my coach, I was just realizing what I had done. Before Bernard [Lagat, who won in Osaka] and I last year, the top finish at a World Championships or Olympics for an American was fifth. We're definitely making the right progress in this country. It's not just one or two people.

    Q: Why the improvement in U.S. distance running?

    A: I think we've got some younger college coaches now that are breaking the mold on training. A lot of coaches can get stuck in their routine. It's important for the athletes to be kept on their toes from season to season and not necessarily know what's coming at them. Coaches aren't being complacent, either. It's a bigger picture.

    Q: How have your goals changed?

    A: I really don't think they've changed much. First and foremost, it's making the team. Once you make the team, it's maximizing your opportunity once you're at the World Championships or Olympics. It's getting harder to make those teams now. It's focusing first and foremost on the US Olympic Trials.

    Q: Is it a big deal that this weekend will be your first indoor race of the year?

    A: It's a big deal because this is probably the latest we've started getting on the track during the year. February 5th was my first time on the track. It's been a quick process and I'm still trying to stay in my base phase, with my mileage really high [105 miles/week], but still doing strength work. We generally run well just off of some strength work. But it's kind of nerve wracking because you go into a race without a lot of confidence.

    Q: Do you have time to do anything away from the track or training?

    A: We do a lot of 2-a-days; that' the basis of our base training. There's usually about 4 hours between runs. We've got two dogs who always want to play. A lot of it is rest and recovery. I do try to come up with projects, like doing some art stuff and editing pictures on the computer. My wife and I have taken some vacations. We've taken two trips to Hawaii. And I got to spend two months in Arizona (training this winter).

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