Shanks enjoying record-breaking senior season for two-time district champion Bears


Chris Jones

Harlan County senior Caydon Shanks helped lead the Black Bears to a second straight 50th District Tournament title last week after setting the school record for goals.

By Toni Colvin, Contributing Writer

In helping lead Harlan County High School to its second straight district soccer championship, senior Caydon Shanks left his mark on the program as perhaps the top offensive player in the school’s history with a record 28 goals heading into regional competition next week.
“My senior year has gone well, but not as well as I had hoped,” Shanks said. “I had to miss several games early on due to covid. It took a while to get back on track. I have enjoyed this year and watching us grow as a team.”
Shanks has been playing soccer for nine years, going back to the fourth grade at Wallins Elementary School.
“I like soccer because it is a sport anyone can play. Not all kids are football or basketball players. It is a fun sport, and it is a rough sport at times,” Shanks said. “Soccer players become more like family than a team. I had some good coaches through the years. They supported me then and now. Some of my HC teammates were my teammates at Wallins, so we play well together.”
Shanks made history earlier in the season when he broke the school record for goals, a record he breaks every time he scores.
“I made a personal goal in grade school to break records at HC by the time I graduated, I did not tell anyone except my Mamaw. She kept up with everything,” Shanks said. “I am proud of myself for reaching my goal and breaking the record. I am most proud of my teammates for helping me reach that goal. It was a personal goal, but it was a team effort. Sometimes players get jealous or something when someone is doing good, but not this team. They shared the ball, encouraged me, and helped me set a record. My teammates were as happy for me as I was. I thank all of them for making this happen.”
As a returning starter from last year’s district championship team, Shanks drew more attention from opponents as this progressed, but that opened up opportunities for his teammates, especially in last week’s 50th District Tournament at Knox Central.
In a 7-0 win over the host Panthers to open the tournament, Ray Splawn led the Bears with four goals. Matthew Jones, Brady Miller and Bradley Brock added one goal each. Hunter Smith contributed an assist.
Travis Burkhart recorded the shutout in goal. Brock, Miller and Shanks each hit penalty kicks in a 3-1 win over Middleboro in the tournament finals on Wednesday.
The Bears will play North Laurel at 6 p.m. on Monday at Corbin in regional tournament opener. Corbin will take on Middlesboro in the nightcap, with the finals set for Wednesday at 6.
Harlan County will be an underdog in the regional matchup, which means Shanks will have to play a big role. He also feels good about where the program is headed as he prepares to close his career.
“Some of the younger players are doing a wonderful job and will shatter all the records at HC,” Shanks said. “I also appreciate everyone for their support and help through the years. It has meant a lot to me.”