Minutes after Margot Dooley missed out on making the finals in the 800-meter run at last year’s Class 3A state track and field meet, Loyola head coach ChrisJon Simon talked to Dooley about her goals.

It didn’t take long for the two of them to decide that finishing in the top three would be the goal in Dooley’s senior season.

Mission accomplished.

On Saturday, the Alabama-bound Dooley took third place in the 800 in 2 minutes, 16.03 seconds at Eastern Illinois in Charleston. It was the best finish of any female runner in the 800 in program history and the best finish of any female in any individual running event at the state meet.

“She transitioned from being a good athlete to becoming a good track athlete,” Simon said. “It didn’t come easy, either. But that’s why she appreciates this so much more.”

Dooley qualified for the finals with a time of 2:16.46 on Friday. With 32 girls competing for 12 spots, Simon said that’s where the real pressure rests with the athletes.

“Once she got to the finals, she focused on having fun,” Simon said. “That was important for her. I wanted to make sure she enjoyed the overall experience.”

Simon said there’s no doubt Dooley will graduate Loyola as the best to ever run the 800. She holds program record with a time of 2:14.43, which she set April 22 at Palatine.

But Dooley hasn’t reached her full potential, according to Simon. He said he believes she will improve after arriving at Alabama.

“She’s someone who embraces competition,” Simon said. “Once she’s around other Division I athletes, that will make her work harder and get better.”