As exhausted as he was late Saturday, Paolo Tiongson said he still was on a runner’s high.
That’s easy to understand, considering a few hours earlier the Loyola senior became the 11th runner in program history to earn all-state honors. Tiongson took 14th in the Class 3A race in 14 minutes, 38 seconds at Detweiler Park in Peoria. The top 25 are awarded all-state.
“It was more than I could ever ask for, more than I expected,” he said. “My main goal was all-state. By the first mile, I was in the top 25 and positioned well. By the second mile, I was in 18th and moving up. I could see a group of guys in front me, and I saved a good kick for the last 200-300 meters to come up with 14th. I was very excited.”
Tiongson ran at the state meet as a freshman and sophomore, but he missed out on qualifying last year. Loyola boys cross country coach Dan Seeberg said Tiongson has developed into a more all-around runner and hinted he had all-state potential.
“He added speed, and that’s an important tool to have at the state meet, especially in that first mile” Seeberg said. “The speed has given him confidence at the beginning of races and also gives him a greater kick at the end of races.”
Tiongson credited his teammates — including senior Case Brennan, senior Will Shortal and junior Connor Hoag — with helping him achieve his place in Loyola lore. Tiongson estimated half of his teammates were cheering him on at Saturday’s meet.
“It was really nice of them to show their support for me,” he said. “They always were yelling out my place to me. I don’t think I could have done it without them.”
Tiongson said he plans to run track during the indoor and outdoor seasons, focusing on the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. He said he’s hoping to get some more looks from colleges, too. He’s interested in Bradley, Butler, Illinois-Chicago, Loyola (Chicago) and Marquette, he said.
According to Tiongson, he was introduced to the sport when he was 6 years old by his mother, Luni Tiongson, who is an active runner. His father, Ron Tiongson, also runs. Both Luni and Ron competed in this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
“I knew I was pretty talented after I saw my times,” Paolo said. “I also enjoy it. Running is fun.”
Now, Tiongson has a place in Loyola’s record books. His finish Saturday is tied for sixth best in program history.
“Being one of the best long distance runners to ever come from Loyola is such a huge honor for me,” he said. “I am so grateful for all of the coaches and my teammates who helped me get here.”