LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Two years ago, Morgan Schild won her first world cup competition and shared the podium with double Olympic moguls medalist Hannah Kearney.
Shortly after that event — a world cup in March 2015 — Kearney retired. And in late March 2015, while training in Italy for the world junior championships, Schild tore the ACL in her knee. She had two surgeries to repair the ligament, then rehabilitated her knee for months.
In her first world cup since her return, she skied as if she had not missed a season. At the Lake Placid Freestyle World Cup, the second moguls world cup this season, 19-year-old Schild finished third with a final score of 72.51. It’s her second world cup podium.
“I can’t believe that I’m going to be able to stand on the podium and represent Team USA once again,” said Schild immediately after the competition. “It’s been 22 months since I was up there, and I’ve been itching to get back there ever since.”
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Overall world cup leader Britteny Cox from Australia won with 75.27 points ahead of junior phenom Perrine Laffont from France, who scored 74.20.
In a surprising twist, not one of the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters from Canada made the podium. For the past four years, either Justine, Maxim or Chloe — or all three — have finished in the top three at almost every world cup. Justine and Chloe are the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists.
Schild’s performance Friday continued a streak of podiums by the U.S. women’s moguls team this season. In December, at the Ruka World Cup, 21-year-old Keaton McCargo finished third. Five American women advanced to the final in that event. In Lake Placid, seven advanced.
The Americans have not enjoyed this podium consistency since Kearney — who won the gold medal at the 2010 WOlympic Winter Games and bronze in 2014, as well as four overall world cup titles and six in moguls — retired from her 13-year career in March 2015.
“The post-Hannah era is we just want to represent Hannah again,” said Schild. “We want to see that domination from Team USA. I think we’re on our way.”
In Lake Placid, Mikaela Matthews made the super final along with Schild but crashed on the dark icy course that was in shadow in the late afternoon, and ended up sixth.
“Big shoes to fill from Hannah for sure,” said head moguls coach Matt Gnoza. “But we’ve got a group of girls who are stepping it up and getting it done. With Mikaela Matthews leading the charge on the women’s team, and Morgan’s now back from injury and is healthy and skiing strong.”
To this list, Gnoza added K.C. Oakley, who is also back from injury and finished 12th in Lake Placid, and McCargo, who has won three junior world championship moguls titles and finished 11th in Lake Placid. Alex Jenson and Nessa Dziemian were ninth and 10th.
Behind them are 16-year-olds Tess Johnson and Olivia Giaccio who “are skiing hot too,” said Gnoza. Johnson finished eighth in Lake Placid, Giaccio 22nd.
“It might take a whole team to fill those shoes left by Hannah,” added Gnoza. “But they’re up to the task for sure.”
While the women were in Lake Placid, Kearney called Schild and told her to stay positive and not worry about the weather, which changed from warm and rainy yesterday to frigid today. Kearney recounted one year that she had to wring the water out of her bib after a rainy world cup, another time when the ice made the moguls course a daunting challenge.
“She said stay positive and ignore the ice,” said Schild.
Schild and the rest of the women aim to carry the podium consistency forward to the next world cups. From Lake Placid, they travel north to Val St. Come in Quebec, then Calgary, and Deer Valley, Utah, where Kearney, who now lives in Utah, will likely watch.
But Schild said the Olympic champion is always with them: “We keep the Hannah Kearney in spirit at every comp.”
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.