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Huntersville gymnast representing Team USA on international stage

Emily Schild takes a break during a practice session at Everest Gymnastics in Huntersville.
Emily Schild takes a break during a practice session at Everest Gymnastics in Huntersville. jkomer@charlotteobserver.com

Emily Schild wakes up early and starts home school at 8 a.m. She works until 12:30 p.m., then heads to Everest Gymnastics to train from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. After that, she comes home and does homework.

Sleep. Repeat.

This is the life of a member of the USA Gymnastics Women’s Senior National Team.

“I think (coaches) (Qi) Han and (Yiwen) Chen have spent more time with Emily than I see of Emily at home,” said Maria Schild, Emily’s mother. “Emily is like Han’s child, and that’s how he treats her.”

Emily, 16, from Huntersville, was named to the 19-member senior national team in March. She competed in her first international competition, The Jesolo Trophy, March 25-29 in Italy, placing 16th in the all-around competition. Team USA won gold.

She’s one of two gymnasts from Huntersville’s Everest Gymnastics to make the national team, with Hamlet’s Ashton Locklear. The two are the first gymnasts from North Carolina on the women’s senior national team since at least 1985, according to records on the USA Gymnastics website.

“I like having that experience of competing at international assignment,” Emily said. “That was like a really good honor, competing with Team USA. …

“Just competing with (fellow national team members) Aly Raisman and Kyla (Ross) and Gabby (Douglas), I just loved competing with them. They were so nice.”

Emily, who recently verbally committed to Georgia, stands a compact 4-foot-9 (“and three-quarters,” she adds) with her dark hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. She’s soft-spoken and has been home-schooled for two years to focus on training. She still finds time to go to the movies and spend time with friends on Sunday, her one day off each week.

She grew up in Indiana and started gymnastics at 2 years old in a “Mommy and me” class.

“I was just like bouncing off the walls and climbing on mats and stuff, and I just really had a lot of energy when I was little,” Emily said.

She tried other sports – soccer, golf and tennis – but stuck with gymnastics. She likes the competitiveness of it, and she likes winning medals.

She looks up to 2008 Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson because “she’s small and she’s powerful.”

The Schilds moved to North Carolina when Emily was 5, and she started competitive gymnastics soon after. She started training at Everest in 2006, two years after husband and wife coaches and co-owners Chen and Han opened the gym.

Han immediately noticed her potential and her small frame. He said Emily is a slow learner, but once she gets something, she masters it.

“Give her a little time and she will probably be the expert,” Han said. “We saw her and worked out a long-term plan for her, so sometimes she herself probably doesn’t realize that, but we saw that (potential).”

As a Level 9 gymnast in 2011, Emily won state championships in the vault and floor exercise and finished second in the all-around. At regionals and the Level 9 Eastern Nationals, she won gold medals in the all-around.

As a Level 10 in 2012, she qualified for the Junior Olympic Nationals, finishing ninth in the all-around, and in 2013 she qualified for the prestigious Nastia Liukin Cup.

In May of 2013, she was invited – along with Locklear – to the USA Gymnastics national team training camp in Huntsville, Texas. There, she qualified as a junior elite and went on to compete in the Secret U.S. Classic, bringing home a bronze medal on vault, and in the P&G Gymnastics Championships.

But Emily missed the 2014 season with a stress fracture in her left fibula. She was sidelined while Locklear competed with Team USA at the World Championships in China and the Pan American Games in Toronto.

“I didn’t like it at all. You can’t do anything. The only thing I could do was swing bars and upper-body conditioning,” Emily said. “It just made me work harder when I got out of the boot. … Now I’m out of the boot, now I get to do my stuff, so now I have to push myself harder and keep working harder.”

After recovering from her injury, Emily attended the national team training camps in October and November. Han said she impressed coaches when she came back in January with more consistency and more difficult routines.

“She really wanted to work,” he said. “Everybody was shocked with how much she improved in a short time.”

With her first international assignment behind her, Emily is focused on the Pan Am Games July 10-26 in Toronto, the P&G Gymnastics Championships August 13-16 in Indianapolis, and the Artistic World Championships in October in Glasgow, Scotland.

“This year is a big chance for her to compete,” Han said. “That’s the biggest step for next year for Olympic selections.”

Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe

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