For the past four years, Nick Mejia and his Marriotts Ridge boys golf teammates have known nothing but success.
A regular in the starting line-up since he was a freshman, Mejia individually owns a piece of the regular-season Howard County scoring record (31 points, 4-under par) and was a county champion in 2013. He has the opportunity this fall to become one of an elite few to make first-team all-county four straight years.
He's also been a key cog in the Mustangs' undefeated mark in county play over the last four seasons, culminating in the team recently locking up a fourth straight county team championship.
But Mejia will tell you the most important piece of his legacy — the one that keeps him focused and motivated — is the chase to continue Marriotts Ridge's string of consecutive state titles. Should the Mustangs win the crown again this fall for a fifth straight time, the program would tie Winston Churchill for the state record for consecutive titles.
With the postseason on the horizon, Mejia recently sat down with sports editor Brent Kennedy to discuss the journey so far and what is on the horizon.
As a team, you guys have been so good now for so long. Being a part of it, do you think you have a grasp on the significance of this run?
I certainly do and I think the rest of the team does as well. The way I see it, we've won four state championships in a row, but this has been a great program, with great players, for at least eight years now. People forget, but there were like three or four years there where the team finished like second or third at states before the streak started. To have that many golfers, for that length of time, living in the same school district is pretty special. What are the chances of that happening? So basically, yeah I think we realize how lucky we are to be a part of this and we've made sure to put in the work necessary to keep it going.
The interesting thing is that you guys are very senior heavy. But that said, you also have a handful of underclassmen posting top-20 scoring averages in the county. How much hope does that give you for the future?
I feel extremely comfortable that once myself, Jackson [Courtney] and John [Szymanski] leave that we will be in good hands. You know, coach [Mark] Dubbs is the best coach out there as far as I'm concerned and those reserves that you mention, they know what they are doing. They are all about getting better and they've shown in matches that they are more than capable of stepping right in. They want to keep this whole thing going as much as we do.
Being on a deep team, that means you personally don't get to play in as many regular season matches. Is that a disadvantage?
We play a lot outside of matches, so I don't think it factors in too much individually in terms of being prepared for the postseason. For us, as a team, our entire focus is on getting as many people to the county tournament as possible. This year we could potentially get as many as eight golfers qualified, which is pretty crazy when you think about that you have to play in at least three matches and hit a certain average [18 points a match]. We want everyone on the team to get a chance to experience what it's like to play in at least one postseason tournament. That's huge when you can draw back on that. And, honestly, the best thing is that our team is literally so deep that we have been able to play our reserves and still continue our county winning streak.
You mention the county tournament, which you won as a freshman. Looking back, what does that achievement mean to you?
Funny story about that tournament … I was playing with Matt McShane from Centennial and on the last hole, before I ended up eventually facing him in a playoff, I thought that he had beat me and I congratulated him. As it turned out, we were tied and then I ended up going on to win. And, honestly, I don't think I realized how big it was at the time. Obviously, I was happy and proud, but these last few years have given me a lot of perspective about how hard those tournaments are to win. There are so many good players and you have to have some things go your way. I think I will have that in the back of my mind as I play these last postseason golf tournaments and I try to get another victory.
In terms of the team, states has always been the main focus. Do the county titles still mean a lot too?
I think, even though states is our main goal, it definitely means something to us. It shows that we are, as a team, consistently the best out there over the course of an entire season. And, for us, it's meant never having a bad day no matter who we are playing or what course we are at. Over four years that's pretty amazing when you think about it.
Run me through your personal goals that you have set for this postseason.
You know, to be honest, I'm trying to win them all. I would bet Jackson is thinking the same thing and I bet most of the guys on our team, and several guys around the state, are thinking the same thing. That winning mentality is part of what makes this team so successful. We could sit back and settle for pretty good and tell ourselves that we will just get them next time. But you only get four chances at each of these tournaments in your entire life. So you kind of have to look at it like an all-or-nothing situation and hold yourself to a really high standard. Will you win every time? No. But the way I look at it, to be the best, you have to strive for the best.
Where are you in the college selection process?
Actually, the weekend before school started, I committed to play Division I golf at Loyola University under head coach Chris Baloga. I'm very excited to go there. I played a lot of high-level tournaments over the summer, a few on the AJGA [American Junior Golf Association] circuit, and that drew some serious interest. He contacted me about a month ago, saying that they wanted me on the team, and I knew that's where I wanted to be.
As you chase that fifth state title, collectively the team has claimed not to be feeling any pressure. Is that really true?
Our mentality, at least for the past three years that I've been here, is that we believe we have the best players, the most experience of all the teams in the 1A/2A division. So it just comes down to us against the course, because if we play how we know we can then the results are going to take care of themselves. When you think about it that way, there is no pressure. I think pressure comes from doubt, thinking that failing is a possibility. It might sound bad to say it like that, but you have to think highly of yourself in a sport like golf if you want to have a lot of success.
Considering how focused you guys are, can you even step back and enjoy the ride at all?
I think you have to and that's something — the ability to have fun while you are out there — that gets lost for a lot of players. I know, over the years, I've even had trouble with that at times. We are competing and trying to do our absolute best, but I've learned to also be making sure to soak in the moment. Like I've said, it's been a great four years and I couldn't have asked for more from my time here. But you blink and it's over. I only have a few more times playing for Marriotts Ridge with these guys so I'm going to make sure I enjoy every minute of it.