Schild, Johnson have big days in New York | VailDaily.com

Schild, Johnson have big days in New York

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — And it’s on to The Great White North.

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Morgan Schild made a triumphant return to the World Cup moguls circuit after a left-knee injury had sidelined her for nearly two years by finishing third at Friday’s competition in Lake Placid, New York. Meanwhile, teammate and Edwards native Tess Johnson posted a career-best eighth-place finish.

By notching the first World Cup top-10 finish of her young career, Johnson, 16, earned a berth in the tour’s next two stops, Val St. Come, Quebec, a week from today, and Calgary, Alberta, on Jan. 28.

Family reunion

Schild, born in Rochester, New York, and raised in nearby Pittsford, before moving to SSCV roughly three years ago, is no stranger to the World Cup podium. On March 1, 2015, she won a World Cup dual moguls at Tazawako, Japan, a performance which earned her a spot at that season’s FIS Freestyle Junior World Ski Championships in Valmalenco, Italy.

As fate would have it, Schild blew out her left knee in practice and had been sidelined since in the grueling world of rehab.

“There’s always moments that I thought maybe my knee wouldn’t ever be the same,” Schild said. “I always worried that I wouldn’t have the same turns and the same fearless runs.”

Schild finished 13th in qualification — the top 16 out of 32 advance. As it turned out, the 19-year-old was just warming up. She crushed her second run, finishing second, easily within the top six for the super final.

In her last run, she said she had some mistakes, but her back cross at the top of the course and a cork seven on the final jump earned her a spot on the podium.

“It’s kind of surreal, looking back on it now, seeing that all the patience and hard work is paying off,” Schild said. “I had my family at the bottom of the course. They’d seen what I had gone through with the surgeries and the rehab. Finally to have that performance was super-emotional.”

Friday’s finish was an affirmation that she’s back and possibly has more as Schild heads to Quebec.

“My final run, I was, kind of just, I don’t know,” she said. “I looked back to my competitive habits. Everything clicked. I wasn’t nervous and I was having fun again. … I am very excited for Canada.”

Punching her ticket

With Johnson still a relative newcomer to the national team, World Cup starts are rare and she’s under pressure to perform well during those opportunities to earn more chances.

Friday was just Johnson’s fourth World Cup start — she made her first final and posted her best finish on tour, taking 13th in Ruka, Finland, last month.

Johnson, using a 360 and back layout, popped into sixth during qualification, sending her to finals.

Still a little new to elite competition, Johnson dealt with the jitters of a three-hour break between runs by getting out of her boots, getting some lunch, watching the men’s qualifying and then getting in some warm-up runs.

Pleased with the quality of her 360 and back layout in qualifying, Johnson said she had to shave a second off her run in the finals.

“I was happy with it,” Johnson said of her second run. “I was bigger on the air and I skied a second faster. I had a little bobble out of the top air, but I was happy to be there and put down a run.”

While Schild had already qualified within the American team for the Canadian swing of the World Cup tour, there was still one more starting spot up for grabs. With her first World Cup top 10 under her belt, Johnson went on Friday evening to a team meeting, where she found out that she will be headed to Quebec and Alberta for two more starts.

“I think it just gives me the confidence as a skier and an athlete,” Johnson said. “Yeah, I am young, but I do deserve to be here, and I’m grateful to be here every day.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.