BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)–After a near-perfect season, eleven-year-old skier Ella McKnight will race in the U12 Eastern Finals in Gunstock, New Hampshire, this weekend.

McKnight learned to ski when she was three years old. She then started competitive alpine skiing when she was seven years old.

Now that she skies more frequently, she’s grown to love the sport and what it does for her body. She begins training for the season in early November. The season officially begins in December.

She races for the Seven Springs Ski Team or Western PA Race Club. Throughout the season, McKnight trains for around ten hours each week.

This winter season was not ideal for skiers because of the lack of snow. However, McKnight was surprised at how well she did despite these challenges.

“I never really expected to do as good as I did this year, but we just put in all the training through all the bad weather and lack of snow,” McKnight said.

Her season wrapped up with multiple first or top places in her races. She earned her ticket to the finals by placing first in the PA State Championships.

McKnight raced three runs in both the slalom and giant slalom. Once she finished the races, her final score was a tally of all three. She said she wasn’t as nervous because this wasn’t her first time at the state championships.

“For the states, we have three runs, and they add up points for the place you got,” McKnight said. “I wasn’t necessarily nervous because I had such a good season, and I wasn’t too worried about what would happen.”

She did not think she would win the States because she didn’t think she did her best. However, she was proud of herself.

Her family was proud of her place. She said they encourage her to have fun with the sport regardless of the competitive atmosphere.

“I didn’t necessarily expect to win overall because I didn’t think I did my absolute best in the Slalom, but I think I did pretty good in the GS,” McKnight said. “I was expecting more of a third or second place.”

She will compete with 90 other girls within her age category. These girls are the ten skiers from their states which includes Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut.

This weekend won’t be McKnight’s first time competing in the Finals. She did compete last year and placed in the top 25 for the U12 women’s division.

McKnight said she’s less nervous this year because she has more experience and confidence. Her goal would be to place in either the top 10 or the top 15.

“I think I’m a little bit less nervous not much as my second time, and I placed a little higher at States,” McKnight said.

McKnight never expected to become so good at the sport in her first few years of competing. Besides her family, some of her biggest cheerleaders are her coaches and teammates.

McKnight said that a few of her teammates would be competing along with her. She said it’s nice to have them by her side because they can calm each other’s nerves and provide pep talks.

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“I think having some of your teammates there really helps because you can talk to them whenever you’re going up,” McKnight said. “We give each other pep talks before you’re about to go. So they help get the nerves out of your body.”

Once McKnight finishes this competition, she will be done with her season. Next year, she will compete as a first-year U14.