Paolo Tiongson didn’t win a sectional championship Saturday, but Loyola boys cross country coach Dan Seeberg said the senior ran his best race of the season.

Tiongson finished fourth with a time of 15 minutes, 17 seconds at Niles West to earn a return trip to the Class 3A state meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria. The Class 3A boys race is 2 p.m. Saturday.

“Things are clicking for him,” Seeberg said. “The sectional has the most pressure, and he had his best performance of the year.”

Especially considering Tiongson missed out on qualifying for the state meet a year ago at sectionals.

“It was the only tough day that I’ve ever seen him have,” Seeberg said of last season’s sectional meet. “I told him at the end of race Saturday that he faced demons and won. It was a really strong showing.”

Seeberg said Tiongson turned a corner Oct. 1 when he won the Pat Savage Invitational at Niles West. Two weeks later, he finished first at the Chicago Catholic League meet. He then took third at the regional meet at Loyola to help the Ramblers qualify for the sectionals as a team.

“The last month he’s been really solid and consistent,” Seeberg said. “He’s been that front-runner that he always expected to be. He wants to compete with those top guys.”

This will be Tiongson’s third appearance at the state meet. He took 87th as a sophomore and placed 164th as a freshman. Tiongson’s looking to become the 11th runner in program history to earn all-state honors, which are reserved for those finishing in the top 25. Jack Carroll was Loyola’s last all-state runner when he placed 23rd as a senior in 2014.

“There is no sense in pretending we aren’t thinking about it,” Seeberg said. “But it’s not something we are harping on. If he runs with the guys he’s been running with all year, he will be in great shape. He’s running with confidence and knows he belongs in the top group.”