Legendary coach Gary Shaw, 75, leaves unparalleled legacy on Hartnell athletics

Hartnell coach Gary Shaw led the Panthers to incredible success in track, field and cross county competition. (Photo: Hartnell College)
Hartnell coach Gary Shaw led the Panthers to incredible success in track, field and cross county competition. (Photo: Hartnell College)

By Ayrton Ostly
Salinas California

SALINAS - When Gary Shaw took the reigns of the Hartnell track and field and cross country programs in 1969, the Panthers hadn't had a state champion in any event for almost two decades.

In the ensuing 37 years, Shaw would set a standard of excellence for Panthers athletics.

He died Wednesday at age 75 in Roseville, California.

In track and field, the Hartnell men's team won an incredible 95% of the dual meets entered (124-16). The women's team enjoyed similar success; of the 249 dual meets entered under his leadership, the Panthers won 227 (or 90%) of them.

Those wins brought regular championships with them. Shaw's men's track and field teams won 29 conference titles, including 11 in a row from 1987 to 1997, and the women's teams won 15 titles from 1980 to 2006. 

Men's cross country teams won 10 conference and five NorCal titles in his tenure and the women's teams won eight conference and three NorCal titles as well. 

Outside of track and field and cross country, Shaw was a longtime assistant for the Panthers' football team during the team's successful run in 1980s.

"His football record was recognized on March 14 when he was inducted into the California Community Colleges Football Coaches Hall of Fame," Hartnell Community College District President Aurelio Salazar Jr. said in a statement to students, faculty and staff. "With characteristic humility, he used the moment to credit Hartnell's student-athletes and his fellow Panther coaches."

Shaw was inducted into the Salinas Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. Hartnell College hosts the Gary Shaw Track & Field Festival every February in his honor.

Beyond the wins, losses and championships, Shaw influenced athletes from Monterey County and beyond during their time at Hartnell College.

"He wanted young people to strive for more in their lives from athletics to academics," current Panthers coach Chris Zepeda wrote on Facebook Wednesday. "Countless young people have come through Hartnell and graduated and come back to the Salinas Valley. I continue to run into community members who share with me their 'Shaw story.'"

That drive to help and cheer on Panthers athletics extended well beyond his retirement in 2006.

"One of my last memories of Gary was him holding the winner's banner at the 2019 Northern CA Championship at Toro Park," Zepeda said. "He didn't need to come all the way down to be there but any time he could support the Panthers he would do his best to be there."

(Click here for the remainder of the story from The Californian)