Skeleton WCup

Savannah Graybill, of Denver, Pa., competes in a World Cup skeleton race in Whistler, British Columbia, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016.  

This isn't how Savannah Graybill had it all planned. Definitely not what she envisioned during all those years of training and time spent apart from her family and friends.

No, by now she expected to be savoring and sharing her Olympic experiences, perhaps with a medal on display, rather than postponing thoughts about what comes next while she tries to deal with heartbreak and aims to leave it all behind her.

But, to borrow from the late Allen Saunders, "Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.'' And it does help that Graybill has experience making adjustments while moving at considerably faster speeds.

"I'm hanging in there,'' she said last week. "I'm disappointed in myself, but I also feel like I disappointed my hometown a little bit, and reflecting on that's always a little tough. … But I'm doing better now.''

Graybill, the Cocalico High School and American University graduate who transitioned from field hockey star into Team USA skeleton competitor, is in recovery mode after a long season that didn't include her goal of making the Winter Olympics.

She competed in the recent national championships in Lake Placid, New York, finishing second (3:41.75 total time) to Olympian Katie Uhlaender (3:41.51). But it's fair to say she's still processing what she has called the worst season of her career.

It all hinged on the World Cup, which was Graybill's best route to an Olympic berth. Her reflections last week made clear that her performance — not to be confused with her level of effort — remains hard to accept.

"It's one thing to miss out on the Olympics because you weren't good enough,'' she said. "But this season definitely didn't feel like a reflection of my strengths and my abilities. … I think it stings just a little bit.

"There's a feeling you get when you're sliding, that it doesn't even feel like you're on the sled and you're flowing with it. Everything feels great. … I couldn't find that flow.''

Graybill can't easily explain what happened. She says she was pleased with her off-season training, as well as her work in the fall team trials. She did have to face the death of her grandfather in June, and suggests now that her need to train may have kept her from fully grieving.

"I tried to get back to training as quickly as possible,'' she said, "because that's what he wanted.''

For the moment, her priorities are to unwind and to catch up with her family and friends. She recently took a boxing class for fun. She also remains employed by a national sporting goods retailer, along with other Olympic hopefuls, and expects to resume training in May.

In other words, she isn't ready to forget her Olympic aspirations, although she knows the clock is ticking.

"I'm definitely not closing the door, but I'm open to all opportunities that come my way,'' she said.

"I'm 29, and there are other things I might do. I want a family, and I want to pursue a career, and I feel like I'm set up to do that. … But it's hard to talk about closing the door on a dream that I've had for so long and was so close to achieving.''

Graybill can take heart in knowing that, even four years from now, she'll be younger than Uhlaender was this year. Beyond that, the simple fact is that she's still a relative newcomer to the sport, and it's taken her to places she'd never seen before.

In addition, she's learned that her corner is full of folks who aren't disappointed in her, and who aren't leaving – but they are helping her move on. That's a pretty nice array of silver linings.

Connect with Jeff Young, a former LNP sports editor, at youngjeff212@gmail.com.