I thought you would enjoy this story that happened to an esteemed colleague of mine, Ralph Simpson, when he competed in his third Massachusetts Speed Contest.
As a bit of background, the Massachusetts speed contests were instituted for the first time in 1975 and ran through 1979. Ed Varallo prepared all five contests and dictated all of them. The requirement for entering was that you had to have your Certificate of Merit. The three legs were Literary at 210 wpm, Legal Opinion at 220 wpm, and Q&A at 270 wpm. Back in those days, contestants had to manually type their takes, and there was a time limit for typing each leg.
Ralph still vividly remembers the tension he felt in anticipation of the start of the contests. “I had the feeling that words were being fired at me like a machine gun and any hesitation could be fatal. It required all the concentration I could bring. Each five-minute take seemed to go on forever, and you just had to hang on.”
Ralph won the contest in 1975 with an average overall score of 99.59 and won again in 1976 with an average overall score of 98.15. Incidentally, in 1976 he was the only reporter who qualified on the Q&A; in other words, he was the only reporter to score with 95% accuracy or better on that leg. Two trophies in two years!
In his third contest in 1977, Ralph came in first on the Literary leg with a 99.52 score. He also came in first on the Legal Opinion leg with a 99.27 score. Although he came in with a fantastic score of 99.33 on the Q&A leg, with an overall test score average of 99.37, he came in second overall. The trophy went to Jonathan Young that year, another Boston great.
So what tripped Ralph up on the Q&A leg that year? He transcribed “chute” when it should have been “shoot.” He only made nine total errors on the Q&A leg, but he made this particular error six times, which cost him his third trophy. In retrospect, he said that “chute” didn’t even jump out at him as being an error during his transcription.
Being the good sport that he is, Ralph still finds it “amusing” that this happened to him, and he has taken some ribbing for his blunder over the years. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take away from his great accomplishments as a speed contest champion or as a reporter of over four decades.
Ralph went on to compete in the remaining two contests, in 1978 and 1979, and had an honorable third-place showing in each. He remains a wealth of information and a sought-after resource when we need advice and wisdom, which is just about every day. Ralph has been with this firm for 46 years!
Thank you, Ralph, for this walk down memory lane!