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Marriotts Ridge's Mejia, Howard's Cherry run away with District V golf titles

Marriotts Ridge senior Nick Mejia talks about his winning round of 67 at the District V Championship tournament on Oct. 11 at Crofton Country Club. (Brent Kennedy / BSMG)

A perfect round of golf doesn't exist.

Although, on Tuesday at the District V Championships at Crofton Country Club, Marriotts Ridge's Nick Mejia came awfully close.

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The Mustangs' senior hit 18 of 18 greens in regulation, made five birdies, had no three puts and no bogies on the way to shooting a 5-under-par round of 67 to capture the first district title of his career by five shots over teammate Jackson Courtney.

"I've had great rounds before, but nothing quite like that in this big of a tournament," said Mejia, who was coming off finishing in a tie for third at the Howard County championship tournament two weeks earlier. "Those first nine holes I was definitely in the zone, everything was working and it all just kind of came together. But honestly, with not really knowing how the guys in front of me were doing, I never was able to really relax out there.

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"It wasn't probably until I hit it on the green on my last hole that I finally was able to step back and soak it all in. But man, what a great feeling."

Mejia's career day, combined with Courtney bringing home second place, was more than enough to carry Marriotts Ridge to the overall team championship. The Mustangs, which also got rounds of 83 from both Alex Pak and John Szymanski, finished with a team score of 305.

Howard, which finished as the 3A/4A team champion for the first time since golf became a varsity sport again in Howard County in 2005, finished second overall with a score of 328 and qualified for states. Severna Park (330) was the only other team to qualify for the state tournament, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 24 at the University of Maryland Golf Course.

Just as impressive as Mejia's winning effort was the runaway victory for Howard's Jacqueline Cherry in the girls competition for the second straight postseason event. Cherry ended up making two birdies over her final three holes to shoot a round of 74 (2-over-par) and earn a 10-shot victory over teammate Alex Abrams.

Howard junior Jacqueline Cherry talks about her winning score of 74 at the District V Championship on Oct. 11 at a Crofton Country Club. (Brent Kennedy / BSMG)

With her main focus being on what's ahead at states, Cherry said her round was all about keeping the positive vibes going after winning the county championship tournament by 15 shots.

"I just tried to stay focused on one shot at a time so I could gain momentum going into states. I'm really excited for it this year," she said.

Cherry got off to a little bit of a slow start, shooting three-over par on her first nine holes, but as the temperatures heated up, so did her game. Her late stretch of birdies helped her finish one-under on the back nine and officially put the field in her rearview mirror.

With Cherry serving as a frontrunner, and Abrams not far behind her, that set the stage for the Lions to make a little team history as well. Shashank Gupta (80) and Brett Pool (90) combined with the girls to post the score that not only qualified for states, but outpaced everyone else in the classification.

"It's a remarkable feeling to be where we are today. I mean we came out here with the goal of just qualifying and we honestly weren't even sure how that would go," Howard coach Joshua McGoun said. "But to hear that we were the 3A/4A champs, I just couldn't believe it. The players have worked so hard, though, and really invested themselves into the game and the team, and they totally earned this."

While Howard found itself in uncharted territory, Marriotts Ridge is no stranger to District Championship hardware. Each of the last four years, the Mustangs have won a district team title on the way to earning a 1A/2A state championship as well.

This year, with a line-up led by a trio of seniors, the Mustangs are looking as strong as ever.

"Sure, I came out here trying to win individually today, but big picture it's not about that — it's about the team. And we came out and put up a really good score today," said Courtney. "This is exactly how we want to be playing going into states and I think we're all looking forward to going there and trying to continue this thing."

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Courtney's round included three bogies and three birdies, along with 12 pars. A handful of missed putts kept him from shooting even better, but Courtney was still four shots clear of third-place finisher Timothy Glaser of Southern.

Overall there were eight boys individuals outside of the teams that met the qualifying score of 82 to advance to states. Included in that group were Howard County players Derek Gold of River Hill (79), Kenneth Chaplain of Centennial (81), Hayden Mikk of Glenelg (81) and Branden Nguyen (81) of Atholton.

On the girls side, individual qualifiers were Centennial's Isabel Trojillo and Howard's Harper Lurie (91).

Varsity Q&A with Marriotts Ridge senior boys golfer Nick Mejia

But the story of the day was undoubtedly Mejia, who won his first postseason title since winning the county tournament as a freshman. He stayed out of trouble, missing only a pair of fairways, and his approach shots were on target the entire way.

That left everything else up to the putter, which was pouring the ball into the hole.

"I putted really well, especially on my front nine … I was able to make some 15-footers here and there for birdie so I guess the hole felt big," Mejia said.

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