There's a line in the Bruce Springsteen song "Badlands" that claims, "It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive."
It's one of Jesse Carlin's favorite lines. And when you talk to the bubbly Penn senior, who is in Des Moines, Iowa, for the NCAA Track and Field championships, you certainly understand that she's living life to the fullest.
Carlin shocked herself by winning the title in the 800 meters at the NCAA East Regional at Florida State University on May 31. She will have her first preliminary race tonight (6 p.m.). Should she advance, she'll run in tomorrow's semifinals, then, hopefully, in the final on Saturday.
If Carlin feels that it ain't no sin to be alive, then she certainly has no problem being the best at everything she does.
"She is such a competitor," said coach Gwen Harris. "Sometimes people are satisfied with being good. She's not. She's never happy being anything but the best. She's competitive in school and in everything she does. It's just her nature. She takes pride in everything."
And she does an awful lot. Though training during the season consists of practice 5 days a week, including weightlifting, Carlin has always held a job while on campus and graduated last month after majoring in biological bases of behavior, with a minor in chemistry. She plans to attend graduate school, but might defer for a year so she can run professionally.
"I never want to stop running, and hopefully it will never stop," she said from Des Moines, where she said the weather is perfect for running. "I'm going to have to do some research on getting on a team next year, and if that goes well I would consider running as a pro for as long as I could. But if that doesn't work out, I still have grad school."
Sounds like a pretty good plan. Her hope is to get into pharmacology, which would include making drugs and studying medicine in the body.
For now, though, her immediate plans are much more simple, according to Harris.
"The deal is, you have to get to the next round," she stated simply. "Whatever is presented to you, you have to be there with [other runners] and in a position to be in the next round. It's pretty much whatever the race dictates. My thing is, and I tell my runners, to do what you have to do to get to the next round. You have to have a plan and the plan has to play out. And, if during the race your plan isn't working, you have to change it.
"Jesse is a very smart runner. Besides being talented, she is good at figuring out what she has to do to get to the next round."
Figuring out what distance suited her most was Carlin's challenge during her Penn career. After running the 400 for most of 3 years, she felt she had maxed out in that event. Then she found her true love.
"I didn't even run the 800 until I was a junior," she said. "And right away I loved it. And look what happened. It's carried me all the way to nationals."
She posted a time of 2 minutes, 5.89 seconds when she won the regional, just off her best time of 2:05.47. And her regional time was done in steamy Tallahasse, Fla.
"The weather down there was like the weather's been in Philly lately, really hot and humid. Not the most ideal running conditions, that's for sure," she said.
With temperatures around 80 and low humidity in Des Moines, Carlin could improve on her regional time.
Should that happen, who knows, maybe an NCAA title. Why not? After all, "It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive."
And to want to be the best.
Also in Des Moines is La Salle's Sean Quigley, who recently was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCA) Mid-Atlantic Student-Athlete of the Year. It is the second-straight year Quigley has earned the honor, which is given to the top nine student-athletes in the nine Division I regions across the country.
Quigley, who holds the top time in the country for the 10,000 meters (28:03.72), will run tomorrow night around 10. He has qualified to run the 5,000 and 10,000 at the Olympic Trials at the University of Oregon (June 27-July 6) but most likely will run just the 10K.
A look at athletes from local colleges in this week's NCAA Track and Field Championships and when they compete for the first time:
Men: Max Westman, Penn, decathlon; Bobby Curtis, Villanova, 5,000; Marco Radocaj, Villanova, javelin.
Women: Jesse Carlin, Penn, 800; Arusha McKenzie, Villanova, 800; Liz Haglund, Villanova, steeplechase. Frances Koons, Villanova, 5,000; Stacy Kim, Penn, 5,000.