Adrian Medrano
Staff Writer

After leading the University of La Verne men and women’s cross country teams as head coach for 14 years, Pat Widolff has stepped down and the Josh Nordell era will begin this fall.

Widolff, who is also the head coach for the men and women’s track and field teams and a professor of movement and sports science, said he resigned because he wanted to focus more on teaching.

Nordell, who received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands where he was a standout cross country athlete, has been an assistant coach for two years under Widolff and was the top choice out of more than 50 candidates.

“I’m very excited and optimistic,” Nordell said. “I appreciate all the support I have received.”

Nordell has shown an unparalleled amount of work ethic. He went from not being able to make the varsity cross-country squad in high school, to being the top distance runner at Redlands.

“I wasn’t recruited at all in high school,” Nordell said. “I wasn’t very good.”

The previous Leopard cross country assistant coach before Nordell recommended him to Widolff.

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Scoring her second goal for the Leopards in the University of La Verne women’s water polo game against Pomona-Pitzer, Kari Erickson sends the ball over the outstretched arms of Sagehen defender Toby Branz (No. 13) and goalie Carolyn Kiefer (No. 1). The Leopards sank tournament host and No. 1 seed Pomona-Pitzer, 9-8, in the National Collegiate III Women’s Water Polo Championship Tournament Saturday in Claremont. ULV earned the No. 5 spot in the tournament from an overall 3-2 performance.
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“I love to run,” Nordell said. “Cross country has taught me that nothing is free. It’s an individual sport and you have to work harder than the person next to you.”

Nordell hopes to improve the team’s individual performances by holding “high intensity, quality workouts with hard, long intervals.”

Nordell expressed a great amount of appreciation and respect for Widolff, who helped show him the ropes of ULV.

“He’s a mentor to me,” Nordell said. “I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for him.”

The hiring committee conducted phone interviews with the top nine candidates; only three candidates were fortunate enough to have face-to-face interviews, including Nordell.

“Josh won the job,” athletic director Chris Ragsdale said. “He has extensive knowledge in training methods and our distance runners will benefit from him.”

The athletes have expressed pleasure in having Nordell as their new head coach.

“He is an awesome coach,” sophomore Derek Chacon said. “He is very personal with us. He will push us and practice will be a lot harder.”

After being an assistant for two years, Nordell feels comfortable at the University and his colleagues feel comfortable with him at the helm.

“I think Josh brings experience in terms of his knowledge of ULV,” Ragsdale said. “He knows the staff and student-athletes, and he knows how to recruit. That was a factor in going through our search process.”

Nordell is not only a fine coach, but also a concerned mentor for his student-athletes.

“I was worried that he wouldn’t get the job when we were told that there were three candidates,” sophomore Jessica Varney said. “I was very happy and content when I found out he got the job. He understands that we need support in all aspects of life. We can trust him and confide in him.”

Nordell is very enthusiastic about improving the team and working with the athletes.

“They (ULV cross country athletes) have shown a positive commitment to run and improve themselves,” Nordell said.

Adrian Medrano can be reached at