Nicolette Schiber was crowned Saturday at ceremonies at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater.
Schiber, 19, is a student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
"Thankful beyond words," she tweeted after the pageant. "I am so excited to serve as Miss Merced County 2013. Best night of my life. Still doesn't feel like real life."
According to her Twitter profile, she enjoys "family, California, Cal Poly, volleyball (and) wakeboarding."
The Miss California Pageant is ordinarily help in June in Fresno.
If Schiber wins the state pageant, she will represent California at the Miss America 2014 Pageant in January.
If she wins in Fresno, she will become the first Merced County resident to be crowned Miss California.
Another Merced County resident, Summer Bartholomew, was crowned Miss California USA 1975. She went on to win the national title and placed as second runner-up at the Miss Universe Pageant.
The Miss America and Miss USA pageants are not related.