ST. JOSEPH — As a young girl, Gabrielle Dilley never imagined joining the ranks of the beauty queens she admired so much – until she won the Miss St. Joseph 2020 title Saturday.
Dilley had never competed in a pageant before taking her first walk on the John and Dede Howard Auditorium stage, at St. Joseph High School.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to come and do this. I always looked up to the queens, and it was always a thing that I wanted to go out and do,” she said.
Dilley looks forward to getting know her court better, and expanding on a busy volunteer schedule that’s already seen her load food trucks, tutor students, and help at corporate events.
“I look forward to all the volunteer (activities) we do – I’ve been volunteering a lot this past year, and it’s shown me that I’m very passionate about it,” she said.
Dilley will lead a court of Katie Zachary (First Runner-Up), Paige Pierce (Second Runner-Up), and Nadia Muniz (Miss Congeniality). They emerged from a field of 11 contestants.
They’re joined by Konner LaVanway, Michael Pavlov, and Cole Riedel, who are this year’s Mr. St. Joseph representatives.
The titleholders will advance to the Mr. and Miss Blossomtime pageants, which run March 15 and 16, respectively, at Lake Michigan College.
Lainie Lu Von Behren served as emcee for this year’s pageant, with the theme “Diamonds,” and a glittering stage to match.
Gabrielle Dilley, 18, is the daughter of Bob and Michelle Dilley, of St. Joseph. She’s a senior at St. Joseph High School, where she’s on the varsity cross-country and softball teams, and also helped to create, and run, the school store . She’s also a National Honor Society member, senior mentor and member of the Yoga Club, and DECA, which focuses on business.
Dilley hasn’t chosen a college yet, but hopes to attend the University of Georgia, where she’ll study psychology, and become a child or family therapist.
Zachary, the first runner-up, will serve if Miss St. Joseph can’t fulfill her duties for any reason. She’s 17, a senior, and daughter of Cynthia Zachary, of St. Joseph. She spends a lot of time on church activities, including setup for special events and meals. She runs track, plays volleyball, and is also studying at Twin City Beauty College, where she’s preparing to become a cosmetologist after graduation, and hopes to open her own salon. She taught herself how to cut and braid hair at 11.
Second Runner-Up Paige Pierce, another first-time contestant, felt glad to earn a place on the court. “It’s still a very important job – it feels incredible. I just feel so happy to have placed, and I’m proud of all the contestants. It’s a dream come true, really,” she said.
Pierce, 18, is a senior and daughter of William and Camille Pierce, of Florida, and Oregon, respectively. Her mother works at Whirlpool Corp., where the family moved from Ohio to follow its latest job opportunity. She hopes to graduate with the 4.0 grade point average she’s maintained all through her high school career. She’s also a National Honor Society member, serves as senior class secretary, and volunteers at the Whitcomb, among other activities, and plans on attending the University of Michigan this fall, where she’ll either study business or law.
Nadia Muniz, 17, is a senior, and daughter of Eric and Diana Muniz, of St. Joseph. She won her title through a vote of her fellow contestants. She also hopes to attend the University of Michigan this fall, where she’ll study biomedical engineering. Her career goal is to work at a hospital, and do research, “finding something to benefit the medical world,” she said.
Konner LaVanway, 17, is a senior, and son of Ryan Schebel, and Valerie LaVanway Schebel, of St. Joseph. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, for sure, getting to spend time with all these great people in the community, all the great kings, great queens,” he said. He’s involved in numerous sports, including four years of varsity football, where he’s been a starter for three years, and track and field. He also coaches Rocket and freshman football for St. Joseph, and volunteers at the Benton Harbor soup kitchen.
Konner will continue playing football in college, where he’ll study education, and plans on returning to St. Joseph, where he hopes to coach and teach.
Michael Pavlov, 17, is a senior, and son of David and Andrea Pavlov, of St. Joseph. He’s also a three-year varsity football player, and is a member of Key Club, and Interact Club, where he works on numerous community service events “in and outside of school and football,” he said. He plans on going to Grand Valley State or Western Michigan University this fall, and pursue a radiology career.
Cole Riedel, 17, is a senior, and son of Werner and Jill Riedel, of St. Joseph. He won the Bud Prince title in 2009. His activities at school have included diving, sailing and golf, and he’s also a member of DECA, Film Club, and Spanish Club. He plans on studying finance this fall at Grand Valley State University. He’ll wants to start working for a corporation and then start his own business.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story included the incorrect first name for Nadia Muniz.