In a reversal of the Rome Middle School Spelling Bee, seventh-grader Aiden West beat out eighth-grader and school winner Emma Mendes to become the system-wide bee winner Tuesday morning.

“I needed some kind of redemption,” West said of his victory over Mendes, whom he finished second place to in the middle school bee.

And in moving forward, this winning duo will go on to the Region 1 spelling bee, which will be held at the Georgia Highlands College Lakeview Building on Feb. 24. Mendes will serve as the alternate to West.

“I’m not happy about it,” Mendes said after the bee, not too sure how she felt about her second-place finish, even if she gets to move on. She explained that she did not have as much time to practice as she wished due to her sizable homework load.

The two went back and forth in the finals of the bee, which was held in the boardroom at the Rome City Schools central office. Both correctly spelled the first three words they were presented with in the finals — the winner has to correctly spell two straight words after their opponent misses one.

But after West correctly spelled “cuticles,” Mendes missed “idyllic.” However, West stumbled on his next word, but so did Mendes, who was hit with “deciduous.” As she spelled this last word, West was seen shaking his head, knowing his opportunity to win was right there before him.

“Porpoises” and “ricochet” were the words that led West to be crowned champion.

In looking back at the middle school bee, West said his adding of a “t” between the “c” and “d” of “anecdote” took his chance at winning away.

“You know how the rules are,” West said, adding that he realized as he spelled the word what his mistake was, but he couldn’t take it back.

West said he’s never made it this far before, expressing excitement at the bigger opportunity, but remaining modest in his approach.

“It definitely gets harder from here on out,” he said. “There’s definitely kids up there that are way better than me.” 

Each of the six elementary schools, along with the middle school, had two spellers set to compete. However, two of the 14 were out with flu, so a total of 12 participated in the bee.