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LEZIRIAS, Portugal – Leslie Berndl of Newcastle and her two American teammates completed the cones phase of the FEI World Driving Championships for Singles, securing a sixth place team finish Sept. 15 – a strong finish that demonstrated a marked improvement for the U.S. Driving Team after having placed 11th at the 2010 World Championships.

Leading the U.S. individually was Sterling Graburn, who completed his second World Championship in 22nd place.

Germany claimed the Team Gold medal, while Switzerland grabbed Silver and the Netherlands took Bronze. Top Individual honors went to Germany’s Christoph Dieker, with Silver and Bronze going to Michael Barbey of Switzerland and the Netherland’s Wilbrord Van Den Broek respectively.

Graburn, from Georgetown, Kent., and Larry Denny’s Ulano rebounded from a disappointing first phase that saw them down the order to secure a top 25 placing. The 11-year-old Dutch Harness gelding completed the cones phones adding just 6.29 penalties after knock-downs at obstacles four and fourteen in addition to adding .29 points for exceeding the time allowed. The combination finished on a score of 144.55.

Donna Crookston of Saltsburg, Penn., narrowly edged Graburn in the final phase adding just six penalties to her overall score. Driving her own RG Cowboys Black Cadillac, Crookston faulted at obstacles two and sixteen. The 16-year-old Morgan gelding completed the Championships on a score of 147.87 in 32nd place.

Berndl was the third driver for the U.S. finishing in 36th place with a score of 151.70. In the cones phase Berndl and Fritz Grupe’s 11-year-old KWPN gelding Uminco added 14.66 to their score.

Berndl, a California highway patrol officer and paramedic, has been flying as a crew member of an advanced life support helicopter for over 15 years. When she is not driving, she enjoys hiking, biking, and going to air shows. She and Uminco started the 2012 season at the Sunshine State Combined Driving Event where they finished second in the Advanced Single Horse class. They followed that up with another second at the Little Everglades International in the FEI Single Horse class. The Live Oak Combined Driving Event would see the pair in the winner’s circle when they won the Advanced Single Horse division. They followed that victory up with a sixth place finish at the Southern Pines Combined Driving event in April.

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