This time, Shannon really is on last spin with Huskies

This time, he's not coming back. When America finishes selecting its track-and-field team for the Sydney Olympics, Ken Shannon will be finished, too.

The longest reign of a Washington Husky coach since Hec Edmundson will be over.

After 32 years at Washington, Shannon and his wife, Janet, will retire to 10 acres of farmland near Twisp in the Methow Valley.

"There's a nice little track at Liberty Bell High School," he said. "I supposed if they asked me to help out, I would."

He retired from Washington the first time in 1997, after 29 years as head coach, but returned as a volunteer assistant - he got enough money to pay for his parking at the UW - to coach the field-event athletes he'd recruited.

"I promised them I'd be around," said Shannon, 63.

Indeed, he will coach Ben Lindsey in this weekend's Pac-10 championships in Eugene. Lindsey, a senior, is ranked No. 1 in the discus and No. 2 in the shot.

Shannon will get back together with Aretha Hill and her bid to make the U.S. Olympic team in the discus.

He will, for a few more months, be America's most venerable and knowledgeable coach in the throwing events. The kids from around Twisp might not know that their new coach - if and when he does help out - coached America's throwers in the 1984 Olympic Games, and again at the Goodwill Games in 1986.

Or that, in the 1970s, he had made Washington a national power in track and field as the Huskies had three NCAA top-10 team finishes and a second place in the Pac-8.

"I'll miss the atmosphere surrounding the big meets, and I'll miss working with the kids," Shannon said. "But it is definitely time to go. I came in when track was on top, and I leave when it is going downhill."

Shannon was an assistant coach at UCLA in 1965 when the Bruins and USC attracted 35,000 spectators to their dual meet at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

"The big meets at Compton, Modesto, Fresno. . . . It was a wonderful time for track and field in the '60s," Shannon said.

Shannon was hired at Washington in 1968 by Joe Kearney, then the Husky athletic director. Kearney was a track-and-field fan. Washington hosted the 1971 NCAA championships and the 1972 AAU championships at Husky Stadium.

"My goal was to win a national team championship," Shannon said. "We had the resources we needed, and we came close."

In 1976, Shannon's throwers swept the Pac-8 meet, Russ Vincent winning the shot, Borys Chambul the discus, Scott Neilson the hammer and Rod Ewaliko the javelin.

Then it all changed. Mike Lude became UW athletic director, and the federal government mandated adherence to Title IX.

Scholarships were reduced from 35 to 24, and then to 12.

"For a while," said Shannon, "we tried to raise money ourselves for survival. It didn't work.

"Mike Lude did well by the university. But he wasn't the fan of track and field that Joe Kearney was. He put football first."

After a brief fling at having a well-rounded team - the Huskies won the 1975 NCAA mile relay - Shannon became more interested in individual progress and results.

As a technician, no one was better. He wrote the book on throwing the javelin. His throwers won 10 Pac-10 championships, and three made the Olympic team.

Nielson, a hammer thrower, won seven NCAA championships, four outdoor and three indoor. At one point, Mike Ramos and Steve Erickson each had scored more than 8,000 points in the decathlon.

Then the rules changed. The javelin was weighted differently so it wouldn't go so far. More scholarships were given to women than men. Track became more dependent on sharing athletes with football, which had the scholarships.

One by one, Pac-10 schools developed track stadiums, sometimes sharing them with soccer. Only Washington stayed in a football stadium.

"At the end," Shannon said, "it was eating me up. It was time to retire."

Shannon began throwing the discus on the family farm in Porterville, Calif.

"I spent a lot of time trying to find the thing in the mud of a hog lot next door," he said. "It was worth it; I just loved to see that thing go far."

The property in Twisp, where Shannon will retire, backs onto a canyon, where the winds roar, and a makeshift discus field might spur Herculean throws.

"I'll bet if we can catch one downwind, we'll throw it 300 feet," he said.

Still loving to see it go far.