Lisa Pratt looks to make this 2004 year a year to remember as she and the rest of the Cougars gear up for another great year. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Her heart pumping, nerves flaring and emotions running wild, Lisa Antonelli-Pratt stood at the feet of BYU Women's Cross Country Coach Patrick Shane and asked a simple question.
What the shooting guard from Lone Peak High School heard in response to her question, shocked her and she wondered if what she was asking was really what she wanted.
"I really want to run with the group," the junior now majoring in business said. "I know I'm not that great yet, but I just want to run and see what I can do."
Playing both basketball and soccer growing up, Antonelli-Pratt had dreams of playing basketball at BYU. The 5-9 shooting guard out of Alpine, Utah helped guide her team to a 4A State Championship her junior year, as well as establishing herself as one of the top female athletes in Utah County.
But as her senior year came to a close, realization hit for the young graduate. Shoeboxes of letters from the BYU basketball coaches didn't fill the corners of her bedroom. An athletic scholarship wasn't coming in the mail any time soon. She also knew you had to be one of the top seven girls on the basketball squad to even see action on the floor.
"I always wanted to come to BYU, but I didn't want to try and walk-on the basketball team," Antonelli-Pratt said. "Because if you're not in the top seven you don't really play, so I decided I wanted to become a tri-athlete."
She loved the aspect of competing against herself and the effort and strength it requires to swim a mile, bike 30 miles or more and finally finish with an eight-mile-run.
During the off-seasons of basketball and soccer, Antonelli-Pratt ran for a long period of time. On a daily basis, she be found running the streets of Alpine, working and preparing herself to compete. Running is something she enjoyed, but really never pursued it as a sport until her high school days were over.
"I ran just to stay in shape for basketball and soccer," she said. "I never did track because I was an all-state basketball player and track was at the same time as basketball.
"I ran in a couple of track meets though, but I don't remember any of my times and I never made it to state. Everything I did, I did it to stay in shape for basketball and soccer."
She broke the news to her friend Hawk Harper, that she wanted to become a tri-athlete. Harper's advice to Antonelli-Pratt stunned her.
"Why don't you run with the BYU women's cross country team," Harper said.
The women's team had just won the NCAA Women's Cross Country Championship and Antonelli-Pratt didn't think she could compete at such a high level.
"I told [Harper] I'm not good enough to be on the team," Antonelli-Pratt said. His simple words of encouragement were: "you'll probably be at the back of the pack, but the great thing is you can move up."
So there she stood at the feet of one of the best cross country coaches in the nation, BYU Women's Cross Country coach Patrick Shane. He being the gatekeeper to a girls' determined pursuit for an opportunity to run.
Without hesitation and thought, the coach of four national championship teams in the last seven years responded to Antonelli-Pratt's question.
"No, there's too many liability issues," Shane said. "You can take my jogging class in the fall as well as join the Sojourners Club, which is a marathon group out of Provo. Do these two things and at the end of the season we'll see where you're at."
Devastated by the news, Antonelli-Pratt returned back home and broke the news to Harper.
She explained to him what Shane had told her. Harper took what Shane had told Antonelli-Pratt and explained it in a simpler and easier way for someone who just wanted a shot.
"He didn't tell you no," said Harper. "He just said you had to get in better shape."
From the time she left Shane's office and with the brief words of encouragement from her friend Harper, Antonelli-Pratt knew she was going to be a part of the BYU women's cross country team.
She trained with the marathon club and ran in Shane's jogging class. What once was a spark turned into a flame. She continued to improve and caught the eye of Shane.
After coaching six Olympic runners and 43 All-Americans, Shane understands and knows when he sees talent and he could see it in Antonelli-Pratt.
Shane invited the freshmen to fall camp in 2001, for the chance to compete for a spot on the team.
"When he told me, 'come tryout for us in the fall,' I wanted to say I'm going to make this team," said Antonelli-Pratt.
MAKING HER MARK
During the fall season of 2001, Antonelli-Pratt fought a stomach problem, which kept her from performing at the level she wanted. So she fought through the pain and trained hard and learned the skills she needed to become a great distance runner.
Antonelli-Pratt learned from the best. That year the Cougars' cross country team had a perfect season, winning its 14th straight conference title and a second national championship in three years.
The following season, she competed in more races and found herself becoming better each week. Now a sophomore, Antonelli-Pratt contributed more and helped the team become a part of BYU history. The 2002 women's cross country team won another conference title and national championships.
"It came as no surprise," Antonelli-Pratt said. "When you train hard and you want to win, your not surprised when you do, but it was an awesome feeling winning back-to-back titles. It worked out well for us that we were able to run well that day."
Only the top seven runners on a team compete at nationals. Antonelli-Pratt was No. 8. But the sophomore contributed throughout the 2002 season helped the Cougars win another national title.
Antonelli-Pratt entered her junior year with a much different attitude.
She started the 2003 season off with a bang, winning the BYU Alumni Invitational with a time of 15:42.3. She continued to help the team move forward in the season by dominating their opponents and keeping their No. 1 national ranking in tact.
At the Mountain West Conference Championships, Antonelli-Pratt finished the race with a time of 21:54, which placed her fifth in the conference and earned her a spot on the First Team All-MWC.
After conference championships, she ran into the NCAA Mountain Regionals confident and ready to help the team get back to the NCAA Championships. She finished 16th overall with a time of 21:43.9. Teammates Kassi Andersen, Michaela Mannova, Breanne Sandberg and Laura Turner finished in the top 10. Antonelli-Pratt's 16th place finish earned her NCAA All-Mountain Region Honors along with teammates Andersen, Mannova, Sandberg and Turner.
Between the five of runners, the Cougars maintained their No. 1 ranking the entire year and took it with them going into the NCAA Cross Country Championships. The women fought right down to the end, but fell short to a talented group of runners from Stanford. Just eight points separated the two teams. Antonelli-Pratt finished 87th overall with a time of 21:19.8.
"It was both disappointing and frustrating," she said. "We wanted to win, but things didn't fall our way. And I didn't run as well as I wanted to run."
HER NO. 1
At a Stanford meet in 2003, Robbie Pratt and Antonelli met. Pratt happened to be a pole-vaulter for the BYU men's track and field team and had just returned home from serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Torreon, Mexico. Before his mission, Pratt was an Olympian for the Mexican track and field team in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
"I was saying to myself, 'this guy is so hot', Antonelli said. "He just got off a mission and he went to the Olympics."
But it would be awhile before the two would finally date. In the spring of 2004 , the two were married in the Mt. Timpanogos Temple.
"He's really supportive," Antonelli-Pratt said. "If I'm having trouble, he'll always keep me positive and excited."
GOALS FOR 2004
"I want to be an All-American this year," Antonelli-Pratt said. "That's my main goal, but I really want to help keep the team positive, unified and together, but most importantly keeping it fun."
"Coach Shane has told me to feel good, have good practices and do what he tells me and things will work out great."
The Cougars return a talented and very capable group of runners, who are eager and ready to get back to competition.
"With the team we have and the recruits who have come in, we have a lot to be excited about," said Shane.
"We have a lot of talent, on this years team," Antonelli-Pratt said. "Together we can all move forward and have a chance to be great."