Long time track and field official and records historian James Fillis passed away just before the New Year.
The scion of a renowned equestrian family whose fame stretches back a century and a half, Jim veered from horseback riding to track and field running first at Archbishop Stepinac High School in the mid 1950s and then Iona College. He stayed devoted to the running scene after college while working in the Westchester County Department of Social Services and he was the chairman of the Westchester Track and Field Officials group in the late 1970s. He served in numerous USATF and local track and swimming associations both locally and also in the New Jersey Catholic Track Conference. Though he devoted a huge amount of energy to philanthropic causes, Jim also kept up on his own running as he finished 57th in the first 5-boro NYC Marathon in 1976 and could still crank out a 6:55 pace for a 10K in Central Park in 2000 at the age of 63 and dominate his age group in many races.
Along with being a fixture as a starter and event chief for decades of meets in the lower Hudson Valley area, Fillis was also our local historian, and for six years beginning in 2011 he published a thick 180-page annual booklet called Top Ten Lists for Westchester County and Section One Track and Field that detailed the times and distances of the top local all-time performers in both indoor and outdoor events along with noting the top state and national mark. Though he loved delving back through the T&F archives in search of information for his record books, he was blunt in telling me years ago that he was the only one who read my huge five-part history pieces for MileSplit, a nudge that helped move me toward other pursuits.
Fillis's passing is a big loss for the officials' community he retired from last year and there will be others needed now to pick up the torch for local T&F records archives.