September 14, 2012 -- The United States got off to a quick start at the FEI World Driving Championships for Singles as they stand fourth in the team standings following the first phase of competition with a score of 96.5. Leslie Berndl leads the way for the U.S. after scoring 46.46 in the dressage to stand in sixth place individually.
In the Team competition Germany leads on a score of 83.4. While Poland's Bartlomiej Kwiatek leads the Individual championship after scoring 38.53 in the dressage.
Berndl (Newcastle, Calif.) was the sole U.S. competitor to perform her dressage test on Friday but she and Fritz Grupe's 11-year-old KWPN gelding Uminco did not disappoint as they slotted themselves into the top ten.
Berndl had hoped to for a stronger performance in the first phase but has left herself well within reach of a medal and believes that Saturday's marathon could be very influential.
"I thought it [the dressage test] was ok. The horse was great but I could've driven better," said Brendl. "The obstacles look open, so there will be a lot of running; I think it will be pretty fast. I'm hoping to have a good, clean go."
As the third to last competitor of the day on Thursday, Donna Crookston (Saltsburg, Pa.) had to wait the entire day to perform her test. However, the wait did not faze Crookston or her 16-year-old Morgan gelding RG Cowboys Black Cadillac. The pair used the experience they gained at the World Championships in 2008 and 2010 to drive to a score 50.05. They head into the marathon in 13th place.
"It [the test] was good, I was very pleased with the horse; he was very obedient."
Crookston summed up the sentiments of the entire team as she thinks they have put themselves in a good position.
"We're in fourth which I think is really good. I'm really pleased and now we just have to keep it up."
Leading off the American effort was 2012 USEF National Single Horse Champion Sterling Graburn (Georgetown, Ky.) and Larry Denny's Ulano. The 11-year-old Dutch Harness gelding performed his dressage early on Thursday morning, scoring 57.47. They stand 48th individually after the first phase.
Berndl will be the first U.S. driver on the marathon on Saturday at 12:00pm local time. Graburn will follow her an hour and forty minutes later at 1:40pm with Crookston beginning her marathon at 4:15pm.
For results from the 2012 FEI World Driving Championships here.
Follow the U.S. Driving Team here.