When Connor Hoag missed out on qualifying for the Class 3A state meet by one place in the standings last year, he said he didn’t think much of it at the time.

After finishing his first race as a senior Tuesday, Hoag, who lives in Chicago’s Sauganash neighborhood, said his mission is to run at Detweiller Park in Peoria on Nov. 4.

“People were looking at me funny last year when I said I was happy with how I did,” Hoag said of his performance at the Niles West Sectional. “Now that I reflect on how close I came, my goal is to make it there this year.”

In Loyola’s season-opening competition at Niles West, Hoag cruised to first with a time of 10 minutes, 21.54 seconds on the 2-mile track. Four other Ramblers — senior Marc Daly (10:44.02), junior Jack Lynch (10:46.23), sophomore Alex Owens (10:46.66), junior John Schmeltz (10:48.85) — rounded out the top five. Loyola had nine runners in the top 11.

“This was a meet to get our feet wet,” Loyola head coach Dan Seeberg said. “We are a work in progress because we don’t have a lot of experience returning. But I am really happy with how the guys are progressing. We are going to take our lumps, but there is no pressure.”

Two talented runners didn’t compete Tuesday. Senior Aidan Sullivan, who ran at last year’s sectionals, and junior Eli Miller, who is new to the team, didn’t run at Niles West. Once they join the lineup, Hoag said the Ramblers will be a stronger team.

“It’s going to be rough at the beginning, but I think we will pull together by the end,” he said. “We will start cranking out good times.”

Loyola runs at DePaul Prep’s invitational Saturday at Chicago’s Horner Park.