Catching up with Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl

NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl
NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl

Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, won the 2019 Speed Contest held during the NCRA Convention & Expo. His overall accuracy rate was 97.54 percent or 87 errors total. The JCR Weekly reached out to Weigl to learn more about this, his third win in the Speed Contest.

JCR | Can you tell us a little about your career and where you’re working currently?

JW | I am the president of WizCap Realtime Reporting Inc., a firm I started around ten years ago. My time is currently split among business operations, pretrial legal proceedings, and onsite captioning. Onsite captioning is definitely my favorite aspect of the profession.

JCR | How long have you been working in the profession?

JW | I actually had to look this up. I’ve been a full-time reporter for 14 years now. With my career, marriage, and family, the years slip by pretty fast.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?

JW | My dad, Jerry, was an official (pen writer) for many years before I was born. After that, he spent the next 11 years as the program head of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Captioning & Court Reporting program, followed by 20 years as an instructor. My sisters and I always looked forward to the annual family getaways when my parents would attend the Alberta Shorthand Reporters Association conferences. I was around the profession my entire life and yet never really knew what the heck my dad did. After a somewhat miserable year at university pursuing a science degree, my dad suggested a career in court reporting. I was persuaded to check out the program and liked what I saw, which has proven to be a pretty fortuitous turn of events to say the least.

JCR | This is your third win. Does it feel like it gets easier?

JW | I actually feel like it’s gotten harder each year. I now know what to expect from the contests and how to best prepare, but each time around I’ve been dealing with the pressure of personal expectations, and that’s never helpful. While the content of the tests varies in difficulty year to year, the thing that remains constant is the talent of all of the other contest regulars. If I went in unprepared, I would have no chance at winning. That reality is a big motivator leading up to a contest.

JCR | You compete in both the Realtime and Speed Contests. As a participant, what are some of the nuanced differences you see between the two?

JW | I find them to be incredibly different. While the ability to write quickly is obviously beneficial for Realtime, the difference is in the mental processing. When writing strictly for speed, the more you think about things, the more trouble you find yourself in. You really just have to let things flow with as little hesitation as possible. Realtime is challenging because you need to be quick while at the same time processing what you’re writing – sound-alikes, punctuation, etc. I cannot effectively practice for speed while connected to Case CATalyst. Even if I have my screen turned away, my brain is unable to let go. This year, I did all of my speed practice solely on my writer and then dumped the files into Case CATalyst for review after the fact. I got a ton of dictionary entries that way. I’m still not sure that I could realistically practice toward winning both contests in the same year. Oh, and some of the speed-specific things I like to do – like dropping punctuation and speaker IDs – that doesn’t get you very far in Realtime.

JCR | Do you have a preference on which one you would prefer to win?

JW | My goal has always been to place highly in the Speed Contest, but winning a Realtime title as well would be unbelievable. Doug’s Realtime score this year blows my mind.

JCR | Do you plan to continue to compete at the national level?

JW | Placing in the Speed Contest requires a big personal commitment and a high level of motivation to properly prepare, and I think I’ve maybe scratched that itch. But a win in Realtime would certainly be worth fighting for.

JCR | What motivates you to compete?

JW | I am a competitive person by nature, be it sports, board games, etc. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the greats of our profession is an amazing feeling. Shorthand theory is so personalized and so unique – always changing, adapting, improving. I know that how I wrote five years ago is incredibly different from how I write today, and how I will write five years from now. The feeling that I haven’t yet fully met my shorthand potential is exciting to think about.

JCR | What advice would you have for a person who has never been in a speed contest before? How can they get started?

JW | It all starts with a personal commitment to be better. Put that date in your calendar, whether it’s for an NCRA certification test or a Speed Contest. The goal is improvement, not winning. Runners train to complete marathons. I have never met someone with the goal of winning.

JCR | Do you practice for the Speed or Realtime Contests? If so, what is your plan? If not, to what do you attribute your speed?

JW | Practice? Nope, not at all. Ha ha!

I don’t care how talented someone may be, there is no chance of winning the Speed or Realtime Contests without a very deliberate and consistent practice regimen. The outline of my practice plan has stayed relatively constant the last few years, with minor tweaks added each time around. I start getting back into timed dictation three to four months out, once or twice a week. As time goes on, the frequency increases. By the last month and a half, I am practicing every single day for around an hour. Consistency of practice is key. And throughout the year, I am always looking to incorporate new briefs and phrases that can make my life easier. I find “Brief It” to be a great tool for adding new concepts to my writing.

JCR | Has your win affected you in any way?

JW | Winning aside, practicing at a high level for months at a time will make anyone better at their job. If I’m able to write timed dictation at 280 wpm, the real world becomes less stressful. And had I not caught the bug for competing, I probably wouldn’t have attended very many NCRA events over the past few years, and that would have been such a huge loss personally and professionally. I am very grateful for all of the friendships I have been fortunate enough to make along the way, particularly during this summer’s event in Denver.

JCR | Is there any advice you can give to other NCRA members on how each of us can be an advocate for our profession?

JW | I think the key is being approachable on the job and enthusiastic about what we can do. If someone shows an interest, take the time to explain to them how it all works. And if we all work toward writing faster and cleaner, we will always be the preferred method for creating the record. 

JCR | Any questions we should have asked or anything else you would like to share?

JW | Thank you to my family, friends, colleagues, and Stenograph for your support in helping me reach my goals. I hope that I can inspire even a couple reporters to work toward improving their skills like all of the previous contest winners have inspired me.

Baby powder, computer fans, and flying fingers: Welcome to the Olympics of court reporting

The Denver Post featured an article Aug. 15 that interviewed a number of contestants participating in NCRA’s 2019 Speed Contest held during the Association’s Convention & Expo.

Read more.

Ready? Begin! Gear up for this year’s National Speed and Realtime Contests

Speed and accuracy enthusiasts, don’t miss this year’s National Speed and Realtime Contests taking place at NCRA’s 2019 Convention & Expo happening in Denver, Colo., from Aug. 15-18. Start your convention excitement early by registering to participate in one or both contests or by attending as a spectator and cheering on your favorite contestant. Contest registration can be found at

NCRA member Kathy A. Cortopassi, RMR, CRR, CRC, a captioner and owner of Voice to Print Captioning from Chester S.C., has competed in numerous state and national contests. For those who are considering competing in this year’s events or for those returning to the ring for another shot at greatness, she offers the following advice:

“Loosen up! If you write anywhere around 260 wpm regularly, you’re going to be fine. You speed up when you need to at work; this is just five minutes. You endure much more than that on every job! Soak up the advice you hear in the room of superstars. Apply what you can; shelve or flush what you cannot.  

“And don’t make any brand-new changes to your dictionary/writing in the weeks leading up to the contests, like I did last year. Bit me in the butt royally on a test I know I would have done so well on. I made a conflict out of toe/tow. Eclipse was supposed to be smart enough to differentiate between the two, right? Probably what more likely happened is I didn’t global them right or have a setting right. And guess what words came up in the Realtime test over and over again? I didn’t beat myself up; I just laughed and figured, yep, you knew better. Figures it would be those exact words you worked on that would come up in the test, you dummy! So trust your skills, your dictionary, your writing, and your experience.

“There really isn’t too much practice time before the contests. So do your own in the privacy of your hotel room. Don’t spend precious minutes before the test warming up. Schmooze with the superstars. Warm up before you go down to the contest room. Don’t expect to do it right before the test.

“Last, don’t look at the superstars and feel less deserving, less qualified, that you’ll never beat them, or whatever. They’re every bit as human as you are. This might be their worst test. If you think like that, you’ll give yourself more confidence to allow yourself to do well. After all, most of this is in our mind anyway. We’re our own worst enemy. Think you’re a champ, and you will be.

“I just enjoy being with these superstars every year, the only time, really, for most of them all year. They’re my heroes, friends. And they make you feel so welcome; not at all a clique. No greater-than-thou mentality. Encouraging, happy, uplifting, and positive. Even joking with the Contest Committee members and last year’s champs. It’s just a great place to be, whether you are a competitor or a quiet, silent observer.”  

And for those students who dream of competing at the state or national level someday, Cortopassi offers the following advice:

“Never quit. Never give up. Don’t be upset when others pass tests; rejoice with them. You will be rejoicing yourself soon or some day. Remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you. If a test is too fast for you now, it will not be one day. Keep plugging away at it. A marathon is won one mile at a time.

“And set goals for yourself. Dream about those goals. Nearly everyone who competes in any sport will tell you that visualization works. See yourself finishing. See yourself graduating. See yourself passing tests. What clothes are you wearing? What’s the expression on your face? What reward will you/others give you/yourself for that?

“But don’t worry with reporting school about setting dates for achieving those goals. Give yourself a neighborhood” of a date, for example, “around January 2020 I will pass ____.

“Come watch us at the NCRA Annual Convention Speed Contests and Realtime Competitions in Colorado – and see yourself competing one day!”

NCRA’s 2019 Convention & Expo will be one of the Association’s most exciting ever as it features renowned consumer advocate and environmental activist Erin Brockovich as keynote speaker. In addition to innovative educational sessions and endless opportunities to network, you won’t want to miss an Expo Hall that promises to showcase the latest in products and services for the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions. And don’t forget to pack your best duds for the Denim & Diamonds-themed Member Recognition Gala that takes place the evening of Saturday, August 17.

Space is limited for this year’s festivities, so make your plans now to attend this premier event happening in the Mile High City that offers visitors a breathtaking backdrop with a range of sights, sounds, and tastes like no other city.

Hurry! Deadlines for lodging and registration are looming. For more information about the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo, or to register, visit Special online registration pricing ends July 31, after which onsite pricing for registration will take effect.  

Attendees are also encouraged to reserve hotel rooms for the Convention at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center by July 19 to secure the special NCRA rate. Staying at the host hotel not only means great amenities for registered attendees (including continental breakfast on Friday and Saturday), but it also helps NCRA keep rates for events reasonable for everyone.

For sponsorship information please contact Mary Petto, Senior Director of External Affairs, at

Congratulations to the Student Speed Contest Winners

Madalyn Massey
Kelly Madden
Rachel Marr

Schools across the country once again participated in this year’s NCRA student speed contest. The contest was held in celebration of 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and gave students the chance to test their speed skills on Literary and Q&A tests. Madalyn Massey, of Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa, was awarded first prize. Kelly Madden, of Atlantic Technical Center in Coconut Creek, Fla., was awarded second prize, and Rachel Marr of the Hardeman School of Court Reporting and Captioning, Tampa, Fla., was awarded third prize.

“I first got interested in the Realtime Reporting program because of a family friend, who is now my wonderful mentor,” said Massey. “It also became a huge motivation for me to get a job where I would be sitting due to an ankle injury I received in high school. I really need a job where I am stationary, and I became even more interested in the career field after seeing firsthand the dedication, professionalism, and passion involved in the court reporting field.”

Massey is set to graduate in December.

Second place winner Madden is returning to court reporting after an 18-year hiatus. A graduate of Sheridan Vocational Technical Institute, Hollywood, Fla., she is back at Atlantic Technical to hone her skills and get to back to the career she loved so much.

Marr is a mother of three who got into court reporting by chance. “I had to leave my radiology program when I was pregnant and while I was on my leave, I talked to an attorney who said that if she had a chance to do it all over again, she would be a court reporter. That piqued my interest, so I started looking into what exactly that detailed [in terms of] school, money, certifications etc.” 

The Mardi Gras-themed contest, sponsored by NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, was open to students in any court reporting program, at any speed level. Ninety-three students from 10 schools took the tests. One Literary and one Q&A test were given, and each consisted of five minutes of dictation at a speed that each student was either currently working on or had just passed.

In order to be eligible to win a prize, students must have passed the test with at least 96 percent accuracy. The tests, written by Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, a member of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, were designed so that the speed could be adjusted to fit the student’s speed.

A total of 25 students passed at least one test. Three of those who passed were chosen at random to receive the winners’ beads. As the gold bead, or first prize winner, Massey received an RPR Study Guide ($125 value). Madden, the purple bead, or second prize winner, was awarded the choice of a one-year NCRA student membership ($46 value) or one complimentary leg of the RPR Skills Test ($72.50 value). The winner of the green beads, Marr, won a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Many thanks to Kriegshauser for her hard work writing the speed tests and preparing the other testing materials. The contest would not have been possible without her.

NCRA would like to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions. Below are the names of all the students who participated in this year’s contest. Students marked with an asterisk passed the test with 96 percent accuracy or higher.

Atlantic Technical College

Coconut Creek, Fla.

Kelly Madden*          

Victor Laznik 

Amber King   

Lynn Corbet   

Brown College of Court Reporting

Atlanta, Ga.

Parker Burton

David Gee      

Shirley Johnson          

DeLeon Little

Chris Tomko  

College of Court Reporting

Valparaiso, Ind.

Kerri Huff      

Natasha Wentzel        

Patricia Lopez*          

Des Moines Area Community College

Newton, Iowa

Madelyn Schmidt*    

Madison Rowland     

Madalyn Massey*      

Green River College

Auburn, Wash.

Ashley Dixon*           

Spencer Holesinsky   

Justin Choi     

Sarah Webb   

Mariah Banta*

Alexandra Fleming    

Hardeman School of Court Reporting and Captioning

Tampa, Fla.

Michele Buono*

Rachel Marr*

Casey Venoitte*

Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting

Houston, Texas

Christy Nowotny       

Pearl Gonzalez           

Cayley Rodrigue        

Macomb Community College

Clinton Township, Mich.

Allison Boggess         

Jennifer Mitrevski      

LaTasha Lindsey       

Allison Grawburg      

Carla Stark     

Kim Champagne        

Jackie Felker  

Robin Fisette  

Dorothy Strong          

Robert Ludkiig          

Kelly Mason  

Alicia Urbinati           


Edmonton, AB Canada       

Andriana Bilous

Angeline Jacobsen

Caprice Albert

Elizabeth Fossen

Emily Ferdinand

Ericah Crumback

Jasmine Hallis

Jennifer Friesen

Jodie Kostiw

Joseph Nudelman

Julia Desrosiers

Katherine Gallin

Kayla Velthuis-Kroeze

Kelcy Sherbank

Kristina Zeller

Krystal Truong

Lucie Titley

Marie Foreman

Meagan Gibson

Michael Thomas

Robin Tarnowetzki

Roxanna Doctor

Sara Pelletier

Tyler Hopkins

Abby Robinson

Amanda Hebb

Ariana McCalla*

Bradley Morrison

Julie Layton*

Lora Zabiran

McKaya Baril*

Michelle Stevens

Netannys Turner-Wiens

Presley Thomson

Sarah Pfau

Shauna Lagore*

Stephanie Jabbour

Yazda Khaled

Plaza College

Forest Hills, N.Y.

Paula Mullen*

Taylor Mascari*

Bianna Lewis*           

Letizia Yemma*        

Michelle Paluszek*    

Elisabeth Dempsey*  

Dishawn Williams*    

Maia Morgan*

Alexandra Bourekas*

Rachel Salatino*        

Emily Nicholson*      

Tikiya Etchison*        

Christina Penna          

Shane Perry    

Pedro Santiago           

Cecilia Miranda

Kislingbury and Bryant step in the winners’ circle again

2018 Speed and Realtime contestants

Sherry Bryant, RMR, CRR, and Mark Kislingbury, RDR, CRC, repeated wins for the national NCRA Speed Contest and Realtime Contest, respectively.

Bryant, who previously won in 2012, placed first in the Literary leg, with 5 errors; second in the Legal Opinion, with 12; and second in the Testimony, with 62. Her combined overall score was 97.94 percent. Bryant lives in Harrisburg, Pa. Patricia Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, of Nashville, Tenn., came in second place overall, and Karen Tyler, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Shreveport, La., placed third.

Kislingbury, who lives in Houston, Texas, earned first place overall in the Realtime Contest. It is his fifth Realtime Contest win. This win ties the record for most wins in the NCRA Realtime Contest with current Contests Committee co-chair Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR, of Castro Valley, Calif. Kislingbury’s overall score was 99.245 percent.

Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, of Baltimore, Md., took second place overall with a score of 98.933 percent. In addition to her Speed championship, Bryant earned third place overall in the Realtime Contest. Kislingbury, Zweizig, and past champion Dee Boenau, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Sarasota, Fla., tied for first in the Literary leg.

Kislingbury was interviewed by a local news station following the Realtime Contest. Realtime contestants Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Donna Karoscik, RDR, CRR, CRC, were also interviewed by a morning TV show in New Orleans.

The Speed Contest consists of three legs: literary at 220 wpm, legal opinion at 230 wpm, and testimony at 280 wpm. Contestants have a total of 90 minutes per leg for transcription. The Realtime Contest consists of two legs: literary at 200 wpm and testimony at 225 wpm. Contestants must turn in an ASCII file immediately following the end of dictation. In both contests, contestants must receive 95 percent accuracy to qualify; accuracy also determines the winners.

2018 Speed Contest Results


Place   Percentage
1 Sherry Bryant, RMR, CRR 97.94%
2 Patricia Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI 97.18%
3 Karen Tyler, RDR, CRR, CRC 97.10%



Place   Errors Percentage
1 Sherry Bryant 5 99.545%
2 Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC 6 99.455%
3 Dee Boenau, RDR, CRR, CRC 12 98.909%
4 Julianne LaBadia, RDR, CRR, CRC 14 98.727%
5 Patricia Nilsen 17 98.455%
6 John Wissenbach, RDR, CRR, CRC 20 98.182%
7 Kathy Cortopassi, RMR, CRR, CRC 24 97.818%
8 Karen Tyler 26 97.636%
9 Allison Hall, RMR, CRR 31 97.182%
10 Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR 34 96.909%
11 Ronald Cook, RDR, CRR, CRC 36 96.727%
11 Kathryn Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC 36 96.727%
12 Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, RDR, CRR, CRC 39 96.455%
13 Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC 46 95.818%
13 Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR 46 95.818%
14 Sabrina Lewis, RDR, CRR 53 95.182%
15 Darlene Fuller, RMR, CRR 54 95.091%
15 Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC 54 95.091%



Place   Errors Percentage
1 Julianne LaBadia 12 98.957%
2 Sherry Bryant 14 98.783%
3 John Wissenbach 18 98.435%
4 Karen Tyler 22 98.087%
4 Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR 22 98.087%
5 Patricia Nilsen 28 97.565%
6 Dee Boenau 30 97.391%
7 Traci Mertens 35 96.957%
8 Donna Urlaub 43 96.261%
9 Kathy Cortopassi 55 95.217%



Place   Errors Percentage
1 Karen Tyler 62 95.571%
2 Sherry Bryant 63 95.500%
2 Patricia Nilsen 63 95.500%
3 Rich Germosen 66 95.286%

* Contest results are preliminary.

NCRA celebrates the Best. Friday. Ever.

NCRA members can kick off their holiday shopping season on Nov. 24 by taking advantage of Black Friday discounts and giveaways being offered with the purchase of membership renewals, store items, educational sessions, and more.

NCRA members who renew their membership or join on Nov. 24 will be entered into a drawing to win a free registration to the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo. Registered members who renew on Black Friday will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a free registration for the Speed or Realtime Contests held at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo. Members who renew their membership on Nov. 24 will also be eligible to win one of two Kindle Fires. That means the members who qualify may have three opportunities to win!

Other Best Friday Ever specials include a 20 percent discount on all NCRA Store items purchased using the promotional code FRIDAY at checkout. In addition, members who register for the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference and book their stay at The Don CeSar will be entered into a drawing for a free spouse registration for the event.

Members who purchase an NCRA e-seminar on Nov. 24 will be entered into a drawing to win a free e-seminar while members who purchase a Skills Test on Black Friday will be entered into a drawing to win one of two free Skills Test registrations.

Members are urged to mark their calendars to be sure they don’t miss the discounts and giveaways being offered only on Nov. 24.

Jeff Weigl new speed champ; Dee Boenau wins realtime

Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, won the 2016 Speed Contest, held on Aug. 3, during the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo in Chicago. Weigl turned in a 220 Literary with six errors, a 230 Legal Opinion with 26 errors, and a 280 Q&A with 20 errors to earn the crown. In second place overall was Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, RDR, CRR, CRC, of St. Charles, Ill., and in third was Karen Tyler, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Shreveport, La.

Dee Boenau, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Sarasota, Fla., took top honors in the Realtime Contest, the second time she has earned the title. Boenau’s 200 Literary leg had only four errors and the 225 testimony had seven. Ron Cook, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Seattle, Wash., took second place overall in the competition. Amanda Maze, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Brighton, Colo., placed in third for the Realtime Contest.

The Speed Contest consists of three legs: literary at 220 wpm, legal opinion at 230 wpm, and testimony at 280 wpm. Contestants have a total of 90 minutes per leg for transcription. The Realtime Contest consists of two legs: literary at 200 wpm and testimony at 225 wpm. Contestants must turn in an ASCII file immediately following the end of dictation. In both contests, contestants must receive 95 percent accuracy to qualify; accuracy also determines the winners.

Just do it

Thinking of competing in speed or realtime contests? Just do it, say the pros.

By Annemarie Roketenetz

Many of the 2015 Speed and Realtime contestantsA major highlight at the NCRA Convention & Expo is always the Speed and Realtime Contests, and this year in Chicago will be no exception. As past and new contenders begin to gear up for the competitions, the JCR recently put out a call to previous champions in both divisions to find out what motivates them to compete as well as to share tips and strategies they rely on when prepping for the challenge.

What about the Speed and Realtime Contests attracted you to participate?

Knowing I am a competent reporter is one thing, but wondering if I could hang in there with those who have participated in the contests is what motivated me to enter. It’s something I had always wanted to do and I found myself at a time and place in life where I could go for it.

Juli LaBadia, RDR, CRR, CRC

2015 Speed Contest Winner

Wilmington, Del.

The contests are fun, and the people you meet are usually great.

Dee Boenau, RDR, CRR, CRC

2010 Realtime Contest Winner

Sarasota, Fla.

I wanted to experience that upper level of competition in my own head and push myself. I had realized how far I’d come in practicing so seriously for all my certifications and what a better reporter I was every day because of it and realized that the practice, if nothing else, would make me a much better reporter!

Michelle Kirkpatrick, RDR, CRR, CRC

National Realtime Contest qualifier

Broomfi eld, Colo.

I wanted to be able to test my skills and read about the speed and realtime contests and was always curious.

Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR

NCRA Speed and Realtime Contest qualifier

North Brunswick, N.J.

Never had any interest in speed contests, but I wanted the bragging rights of doing well in the realtime contest.

Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRR, CRC

Realtime Contest qualifier

New York, N.Y.

Once you participate one time, you’re hooked. It’s like an addiction. I missed an annual convention a few years ago, and the worst part was not getting to compete!

Donna J. Karoscik, RDR, CRR, CRC

Realtime Contest qualifier

Pickerington, Ohio

Just the personal challenge of keeping up with such an elite group of colleagues. Knowing I qualify actually gives me confidence that I can handle just about any assignment in my everyday job.

Patricia Orsini Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI

Speed and Realtime Contest qualifier

New York, N.Y.

Because machine shorthand is a skill, I have looked at speedbuilding as a sport or game since I first started learning theory. The NCRA Speed and Realtime Contests are the Olympics, and having the opportunity to participate is an absolute thrill.

Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC

Speed and Realtime Contest medal-winner

Edmonton, AB, Canada

When I sat down to practice for the contest, I gave myself permission to write for speed. It was as if I had thrown off the shackles, a very freeing experience. This put me on a quest to write short and conflict-free.

Donna M. Urlaub, RMR, CRR

Speed Contest medal-winner

Chicago, Ill.

How far in advance do you begin to prepare to compete?

When I first started competing, six months in advance. As my baseline speed over time got better as a result of competing over the course of years, I started about three months in advance.

Alan H. Brock, RDR, CRR

2003 and 2011 Speed Contest Winner

Boston, Mass.

This year, I started in March but only because I was on vacation in February. Last year I did not start nearly soon enough! And my results showed it.

Michelle Kirkpatrick

I’m always preparing. I maintain practice for the simple reason that if I don’t, my accuracy starts failing. And my consumers deserve better than that.

Kathryn A. Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC

Speed and Realtime Contest qualifier

Caseyville, Ill.

About a month before the contest.

Patricia Orsini Nilsen

About a month and a half out, I will begin to get back into speedbuilding one or two times a week, which really amounts to just trying to recover the speed that I have inevitably lost over the course of the year being away from timed dictation. The month leading up to the contest is when I really begin a concerted, consistent practice regimen. I do my best to practice every single day during this time, for as little as ten minutes to as long as an hour.

Jeffrey Weigl

What does your prepping entail to compete?

I try to practice Q&A material as much as possible with ev360 Ultimate.

Dee Boenau

“Practicing with a purpose” is key. For the realtime contest, working out the kinks in my dictionary and in my writing, just like with the realtime certifications practice but to a greater degree. For the speed contest, learning to write shorter and learning to scramble faster and faster, just like with the speed certifications practice but to a greater degree!

Michelle Kirkpatrick

I practiced with past Speed Contests, mainly. I also used Realtime Coach for the realtime contest prep. I realtime every day at work, so I just made sure to add new entries to my dictionary and learned new briefs and phrases.

Anthony D. Frisolone, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI

Speed Contest participant

Staten Island, N.Y.

I always hear people say that fast depositions are practice. Not for me. I like to put in speed tapes (yes, tapes!) and speed them up even faster. Then I turn on the television and find the most obscure show to practice getting new words into my dictionary.

Donna J. Karoscik

My speed practice entails warm-up with finger drills followed by speedbuilding at levels at least 20 wpm above the actual contest speeds. I have not yet done any specific training for the realtime contest. My game plan when participating has been to pretend it is a speed contest and just try to stay on top of the dictation as best I can without actually worrying about the realtime translation.

Jeffrey Weigl

What do you take away from the experience of competing?

It helped me become a far better reporter. Almost as important is the pleasure of making new friends, of the warm support the contestants give newcomers.

Alan H. Brock

It’s great rubbing elbows and just being in the same room with some of the best writers in the country. Everyone is very supportive of each other and is genuinely happy for other reporters that do well.

Rich Germosen

Friendships with my fellow competitors. There’s a saying that if you want to become a better musician, play with musicians who are better than you. This also applies to our profession. That and the deadline of a contest keep me accountable to practice.

Kathryn A. Thomas

It was a great experience, and I am excited to try again now that I am familiar with the format and procedure. It’s an honor to be able to sit next to the best writers in the country (and Canada).

Myrina A. Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR

National Speed Contest qualifier

Wayzata, Minn.

It’s nothing more than self-satisfaction! There’s also a nice camaraderie built among the contestants.

Patricia Orsini Nilsen

Do you get nervous before the contests and, if so, what do you do to help calm your nerves?

I was nervous right before each take started, which surprised me. I didn’t know what to expect, certainly didn’t think I would be nervous after 28 years as a reporter. But I guess it becomes real when you’re actually there at the start of the competition. To calm myself down, I just had to remind myself that I was only there to prove to myself what I was capable of, no one else’s expectations mattered, and if I didn’t get a grip and go for it, I wouldn’t know.

Juli LaBadia

It can be a mind game. I wasn’t nervous at all in Philadelphia in 2012. Next year in Nashville my hands were sweaty, and I was nervous compared to the previous year. When I hear the words “Ready, begin,” I take a really deep breath, let it out, and then close my eyes and write.

Rich Germosen

I had nothing to lose by entering the contest so I didn’t really get nervous. On the day of the contest, I drove in from my house in Staten Island, got stuck in New York tra­ffic, and made it in the nick of time, so I had just enough time to set up, warm up, and get ready to write. I had no time to get nervous. I don’t recommend that strategy either. I should have gotten a room for the night before the contest.

Anthony D. Frisolone

Not really. I’m usually too busy visiting with colleagues I haven’t seen since the last convention!

Kathryn A. Thomas

Absolutely! I tend to shut myself off from the outside world and try to stay in my own head. I find that once warmed up properly for a contest, listening to music and avoiding any conversation or interaction to be very effective in staying in the zone and keeping myself calm and concentrated. A deep breath and concerted effort to relax my shoulders at the start of each test goes a long way.

Jeffrey Weigl

The adrenaline rush I experience before and during the dictation is almost disabling, most notably quaking hands. My only words of advice: Keep doing it. Practice to new material, pretend you’re at the contest, and write it like it counts.

Donna M. Urlaub

Do you have any special good luck rituals you rely on before you compete?

Good preparation trumps ritual!

Alan H. Brock

I like to wear these lucky red socks on contest day. Kidding! I don’t like to do a ton of warm up in the room pre-dictation. I close my eyes, zone out, and try to forget that this is the contest. Usually in the first sentence of dictation I find myself thinking: Okay, this counts … let’s go. Then I try to close my eyes and zone out. That works best for me.

Rich Germosen

I went to the gym that morning as I usually do, and the workout helped me stay calm and allowed me to be focused on something other than being nervous. I also thought about my dad a lot that morning. He was very supporting of my reporting career and always told me to be the best at what I do. Even though I didn’t come anywhere close to even qualifying, he would have been proud of me for even trying.

Anthony D. Frisolone

I throw on some sort of T-shirt that makes me happy, maybe a sentimental piece of jewelry.

Patricia Orsini Nilsen

Just get a good night’s sleep. If you can, arrive more than a day before so that you can acclimate yourself to the environs, just kind of hang out, and have private time to practice in your room.

Donna M. Urlaub

What advice do you have for first­-time contestants for preparing themselves?

The results never, ever turn out the way you think. Go in with the mindset that you are there for the experience. Be relaxed, and don’t take the competitions so seriously.

Dee Boenau

It’s fun to prepare, and most especially it’s a pleasure to see how the preparation makes you a better reporter.

Alan H. Brock

The tests are slower than you think!

Mirabai Knight

Focus on doing your best, not where you’ll end up on the scoreboard. There is a great deal of pride in knowing you’ve done your best.

Donna J. Karoscik

Definitely attend the practice session the afternoon before! This allows you to become accustomed to the dictators’ voices, write the previous years’ contest material, catch up with and meet fellow sufferers, and just all around settle down and settle in.

Donna M. Urlaub

What is the one tip you would give to some­ one who is considering competing?

You have absolutely nothing to lose by putting yourself out there, especially if you go into it with no expectations except to do your personal best. What’s the worst that could happen that you disappoint yourself? But what if you pass every take instead?

Juli LaBadia

You will enjoy the experience alone even if you do not qualify, and you will meet some great new friends. You have nothing to lose by competing. And you never know; even if it’s your first year competing, that doesn’t mean you won’t win. Last year’s competition is proof of that!

Michelle Kirkpatrick

If you’re an RMR or a CRR and you’ll be at the convention, sign up for the contest. You never know unless you try. Just do it and see how you do.

Rich Germosen

Don’t worry about it. The stakes are not that high.

Mirabai Knight

Just do it.

Dee Boenau

Do you have any advice for people even if they don’t think they want to compete?

Practice does make you better, and you should keep working on refining your dictionary, even 30 years into a career. You owe it to yourself to not become complacent and to be the best reporter that you can be.

Juli LaBadia

We have every reason to be our very best if we want to see our professions grow and thrive. You might just be the next dark horse!

Dee Boenau

Find some way to push yourself. Somewhere. Comfort is fatal.

Kathryn A. Thomas

I would recommend that anyone who is qualified to participate does compete at some point. It has energized me to be better and I am now practicing for Chicago.

Myrina A. Kleinschmidt


Why enter the speed contest?

By Alan H. Brock

Why enter the speed contest? The answer really can be reframed as: Why do we want more speed?

In our everyday work as court reporters, we are constantly thinking, evaluating what we hear and how to render it on our realtime screens. Was that word in or and, imminent or eminent, cost or costs? We want our realtime to be as close to perfect as possible, even if no one else is seeing it, because every mistranslate or untranslate represents time that we have to spend making corrections after our session is over. Time is money; the more time I have to spend working on a transcript after the session is over, the less money I am making per hour worked and the less time I have for other activities in my life.

Of course, if we are taking speakers whose velocity of speech is at the outer limits of our capabilities, then we can’t a­fford to be thinking about those niceties of writing of homonyms and word boundaries, of punctuation, or even of understanding what we are hearing. All we can do is hold onto our hats and try to keep from being bucked o­ the speedy horse. Our guiding principle becomes just getting something down and figuring it out later!

So back to that first question: Why more speed? The more speed we have, the less often we have to spend e­ ort just to keep up and the more we can focus on excellent realtime — and the more money per total hours worked we can make. Speed matters because it makes our realtime better, makes our work easier and less stressful, and earns us more money.

It was great to win the speed contest twice (in 2003 and 2011), but its greatest benefits came just because I was practicing for it, especially in those first years of entering, when I was thrilled just to qualify. My everyday writing became cleaner. I could focus on detailed realtime punctuation. I had time to make notes to myself. My work became far more enjoyable. In short, the most important rewards of gaining more speed have been the results that show up every day in my writing. Preparing for the contest, no matter how well or not I did in any year, has been a game-changer for my everyday work!

Alan H. Brock, RDR, CRR, is a freelance reporter from Boston, Mass.



Annemarie Roketenetz is NCRA’s Assistant Director of Communications. She is the sta­ff liaison to the Contests Committee. She can be reached at

Read more about the history of the speed and realtime contests, as well as the rules, at This year, the Speed Contest will be held Wednesday, Aug. 3, starting at 9 a.m. CT, and the Realtime Contest will be held Thursday, Aug. 4, starting at 1 p.m. There is an optional practice session held for competitors on Tuesday, Aug. 2, starting at 3 p.m., and the competitors often meet up for a dinner at a local restaurant on Tuesday evening.

People interested in registering for these events should do so early, as spaces are limited. Spectators are permitted for the Speed and Realtime Contests.

Save the date for great NCRA learning opportunities

Photo by: Dafne Cholet

NCRA staff members are planning great ways for members to earn CEUs this year. NCRA members can also earn CEUs by passing the skills or written portion of certain tests, such as the RMR, RDR, CRR, or CLVS exams. Here is a short selection of dates and events (dates are subject to change).

Jan. 31             Cycle extension deadline

March 11-13   CLVS Seminar and CLVS production skills test, Reston, Va.

March 19-20   NCRA Board of Directors Meeting, Reston, Va.

March 20-22   2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp, Reston, Va.

April 4-20        RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS written knowledge test dates

April 17-19      2016 Firm Owners Executive Conference, San Juan, P.R.

July 9-21          RPR and CLVS written knowledge test dates

Aug. 4-7           2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, Chicago, Ill. (includes the Legal Video Conference, the CRC Workshop, and the National Speed and Realtime Contests)

Sept. 30           Submission deadline for CEUs and PDCs for members with a 9/30/16 cycle ending

Oct. 7-19         RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS written knowledge tests

Court Reporting & Captioning Week (Feb. 14-20), Memorial  Day (May 30), and Veterans Day (Nov. 11) are also all good opportunities to schedule Veterans History Project Days to earn PDCs. And don’t forget that online skills testing is available year round.

In addition, NCRA is planning webinars throughout the year, which will be announced in the JCR Weekly and on NCRA social media as they are available. Watch for more information in the JCR, the JCR Weekly, and on for registration, deadlines, and other ideas to earn continuing education.