Westmont’s Dave Odell has been named the Golden State Athletic Conference Athletic Director of the Year.

Dave Odell

Dave Odell navigated Westmont Athletics through the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented.

He was recognized for navigating the Warrior athletic program to a highly successful year despite the changing requirements and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the 2020-21 season, Westmont athletic teams claimed five regular season GSAC championships (men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer), won a GSAC tournament championships (men’s soccer), advanced all 17 programs to postseason play and participated in 12 NAIA National Championships.

The Westmont women’s basketball team won its second national championship and the men’s track and field team placed in fourth at the outdoor national championships – the highest finish in program history.

In addition, Westmont track and field athletes garnered three individual national championships. Zola Sokhela won the NAIA title in both the 800- and 1500-meter runs, while Seth Wilmoth captured the title in pole vault with a Westmont record vault of 16-8.75.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Westmont hosted four NAIA Opening Round events under Odell’s leadership. The Warriors served as national tournament hosts for men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and baseball.

“This has been one of the most challenging years in collegiate athletics that I have experienced and I can confidently say that Dave was instrumental in guiding Westmont athletics through it,” said Robert Ruiz, head coach for Westmont Baseball. “His ability to creatively navigate the challenges that COVID presented while always prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff was exemplary.

“The success that was achieved this year in our department, including a national championship in women’s basketball, would not have happened without the commitment of our athletic director who worked tirelessly behind the scenes from start to finish.”

Said women’s basketball coach Kirsten Moore, the NAIA Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year: “I have long admired Dave’s ability as a leader to creatively solve problems and the 2020-21 year provided ample opportunity to do just that. Dave has an ability to take challenges head on with uncompromising character and honesty.

“His steady demeanor through all the ups and downs of COVID has helped our coaches navigate the process with our teams to keep our athletes safe while also being able to compete at the sports we love. His leadership as athletic director here at Westmont has led us to extraordinary success not just in the athletic arena but more importantly in the development of our student-athletes as well-rounded people prepared to make a positive impact when they graduate from Westmont.”

Westmont President Gayle Beebe called Odell the consummate professional.

“He plans well, works incredibly effectively and achieves outstanding results. All the while ensuring the mission of the college is advanced and the student-athletes are given every opportunity to excel in both arenas: as a student and as an athlete. Beyond all the public records and results, Dave is also humble, generous, and a great embodiment of the best of Westmont,” said Beebe.

“Dave sets the bar in our celebration first of the student, then of the athlete, said Westmont acting provost Rick Ifland. “He and his team did a remarkable job keeping our coaches and athletes both safe and competitive during a pandemic. This award is fitting, particularly this year, for Dave, who represents all that we stand for.”

Odell said the entire athletic department is the recipent of the award.

“In this crazy COVID year, this award is a team award,” he insisted. “Our sports information department, athletic training staff and associate AD’s deserve recognition. In particular, our assistant athletic director of operations, Trisha Beaudin, kept us on the field as she led our COVID testing plan in addition to all of the other tasks in her job”.

Odell pointed out that the GSAC was founded after his freshman season as a Westmont basketball player.

“Since then, my family has been connected to the conference in some way,” he said. “My sister, Susie Maga, was an All-GSAC volleyball player and then assistant coach in the early 90s at Westmont.  My dad, Bill Odell, was basketball coach and athletic director at Azusa Pacific. So, being honored by the GSAC is a true blessing given what it means with respect to my family’s history in the conference.”

Odell has served as Westmont’s athletic director since January of 2009. Under his leadership, Westmont has won the GSAC All-Sports Award eight consecutive times. Warrior teams have won 25 regular season championships and 18 GSAC tournament titles, and the cross country and track and field teams have combined for an additional 13 GSAC championships.

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Barry Punzal, Noozhawk Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.