Kevin Desmond was happy to compete in a variety of big races last season for the University of Southern Maine indoor track and field team.

The Monmouth native soaked in the different experiences, particularly the NCAA Division III national championships.

“Last year, he was just happy to be in the big races,” USM indoor track and field coach Ryan Harkleroad said.

Things are a bit different this year for Desmond.

The junior middle distance runner is enjoying a standout winter for the Huskies, emerging as one of the fastest 800-meter runners in Division III.

He earned All-American status last year by finishing eighth in that event at the national championships.

The expectations are much higher this season.

“I want a top-three finish at nationals,” Desmond said. “It’s a big goal, but I can get there. Last year I went eighth at nationals. I was happy with it. It got me an All-American title, but I still want more. The other specific goal is breaking 1 minute, 50 seconds in the (800).”

Desmond came close this season at the Boston University Terrier Classic on Jan. 25. He finished the 800 in 1:52.61. At the time, it was the fastest anyone in Division III had run an 800.

“That was a big race,” said Desmond.

Desmond finished eighth in the 800 at the Division III indoor national championships last year with a time of 2:01.97.

“I didn’t want to peak my sophomore year,” Desmond added. “I wanted to keep the momentum going. I’m on track to do something big this year.”

To help him train for the 800, Desmond is also running a few 600- and 1,000-meter races this year.

Harkleroad said both those races are preparing Desmond for the big events later this winter.

The ECAC Division III championships are March 7-8 in Boston. Nebraska-Wesleyan will host the national championships a week later.

“Kevin this season is running a few events he hasn’t run before,” Harkleroad said. “He’s much further along this year. It’s helped him to go outside his comfort zone. We hope this is going to be a long season for him. We’ve always had the NCAA championship in mind, so we wanted to keep it fresh for him. We wanted him to run some other events.

“The 600 alows him to work on speed. The 1,000 is such a big difference from the 800. He can work on strength and endurance.”

Added Desmond: “It’s been a great year so far. I just want to keep the momentum going. Hopefully, I can do some big things later.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640bstewart@centralmaine.comTwitter: @billstewartkj