COW HEAD, NL. – Before every game, the Long Range Academy Mustangs huddled together and said, “let’s win it for Justin.”
And that’s just what they did.
On Oct 21, 2017, the softball team from Cow Head was crowned the 2A Provincial Softball champions when they defeated French Shore Academy (Port Saunders) by a score of 17-16.
But it was an emotional victory for the young team of Grade 8-12 students, with the loss and memory of a teammate heavy on their minds and hearts.
On Sept. 11, 17-year-old Justin Hynes, a member of the team, was killed while walking to school in Cow Head.
The tragedy left the students in mourning and unsure if they would continue on with the season.
Eventually, they started holding practice three times a week.
They went ahead and participated in regional qualifier in St. Paul’s, keeping Justin’s memory close by wearing “JH” on their jerseys.
They finished in first and qualified for the provincials.
At the provincials in Port Saunders, they wore Justin’s initials on their caps.
“The boys would say ‘he’s here with us,’” said coach Shane Payne.
The tournament wasn’t a pushover for the team. They won two of their round robin games and tied the third.
They won their semi-final game, 24-21 and squared off against Port Saunders in the championship.
The score was tied 14-14 through six innings.
But the Mustangs pulled ahead and managed to hold on for a 17-16 victory to take home the banner.
It was the first time the Long Range Academy Mustangs won the championship.
“It was an inspiring effort,” said Payne. “It was a bittersweet, emotional victory. (They left) our school’s communities very proud, as they picked up the pieces and played hard to win in memory of their teammate.”