Right after being crowned the Region 1 Spelling Bee champion in the 26th round, Jayla Rich walked over to runner-up Grey Olson and shook his hand.

“No matter what happened we’re all winners,” she said.

Rich, representing Chattooga County Schools, and Olson, representing Cartersville City Schools, will move on to the State Spelling Bee March 16. That bee will be held at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, and participants will have a chance to meet the former president, who will be the guest speaker.

With her spelling of “dichotomy,” her second straight correctly spelled word, Rich secured her trophy and $200 prize. Olson also took home a trophy, though slightly smaller, and a $100 prize.

“There’s always going to be someone better than you,” Olson said.

There were 15 competitors in all — Rylee Mullinax of Pickens County Schools was unable to attend, so the alternate from Paulding County participated — representing Northwest Georgia school districts.

Coosa Middle eighth-grader Taylor Wilson represented Floyd County Schools and Rome Middle seventh-grader Aiden West represented Rome City Schools — they were knocked out in the fourth and sixth rounds respectively. West was among the final six.

The bee opened with Christy Davis, a bee consultant and Pepperell Middle teacher, telling a story of her own bee experience as a fifth-grader. She used it as an example — she got “dazzlingly” and the next student got “elf” — of how the difficulty of words vary.

“You just don’t know the word you’re going to get, that’s the joy of spelling bees,” Davis said.

Rich and Olson, along with Enzo Hines, of Paulding County Schools, and Chloe Carter, of Fannin County Schools, were the only four competing from the ninth round to the 13th round, when Carter was knocked out. Then the final three went back and forth until there were only two after Hines was tripped up by “empanada” in the 19th round. 

There was one vocabulary round but the others were all spelling. During a practice vocabulary round, Gordon County Schools fifth-grader Ethan Hurley asked caller Erskine Thompson if it was OK to guess.

“I highly encourage guessing if you don’t know,” Thompson said.