PUEBLO - Over the past couple of seasons, athletes at Mesa Ridge have put their teams on the map with school-first feats, from a 4A girls' basketball state championship in March, a boys' hoops league title a few weeks earlier and also a 2012 run to the football semifinals.
Boys' golf would like some of that action, too.
On Wednesday at the Centennial Invitational at Walking Stick Golf Course, the Grizzlies displayed a snapshot of a team on the rise, finishing fourth out of 20 teams as the fall season officially got underway.
Junior Braden Bentley fired a 1-under-par 71 to tie for the top spot with Pueblo South's Matt Casias and was declared the overall champion on a scorecard playoff.
But it was the team finish that had coach James Huerena most impressed.
"Finishing fourth out here was about as important, if not more so, than winning the individual title," Huerena said. "We have big goals as a team. We want to win the Metro League and qualify our team for state. We haven't done that before."
Bentley, a two-time 4A state qualifier, last year was joined by then-sophomore Logan Gorman, who made his state debut at Hiwan Golf Club last September.
In six weeks, the hope is for the team of Grizzlies to meet up again at Walking Stick, also site of the upcoming 4A state tournament, Sept. 29-30.
"I'm so much better this year than I was last year, and Logan has made huge strides and has practiced really hard," Bentley said. "Jason (Zegan) and Matt (Napier) listen really well and are improving every day. With our coaching staff, I think we can get better and better and do big things. We just wanted to have a good start."
Pueblo South (231) captured team honors, clipping a Cheyenne Mountain team without top player Wilson Belk, playing at an out-of-state tournament, by one shot. Pueblo West (241) finished third, followed by Mesa Ridge (247) and Rampart (249), which was powered by a 72 from senior Andrew Martinez.
"For the first tournament of the year, I wanted to start out low and keep getting lower throughout the year," Martinez said. "It's my senior year, so I want to do well. I struggled at regionals last year and didn't make state. What I want to change this year is not getting nervous on the first hole, and just to keep going after a bad hole."
On Wednesday, Martinez's newfound philosophy paid immediate dividends; he birdied the first hole, and that seemed to carry him through the round.
"As soon as I started off with a birdie on the first hole, I stayed consistent," Martinez said. "Whenever I got a bogey, I'd constantly come back with a birdie or par on the next hole. I'm just happy with the round today."
Cheyenne Mountain senior Cole Anderson carded a 73 to finish sixth overall, while Manitou Springs senior Drew Mendoza and Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Everett Dwyer (78), and Widefield junior Nathan Starke (79) finished in a tie for seventh and ninth, respectively.