All three of Chris Petersen’s kids were track and field stars in high school.
But she treated every kid in Section II as if they were a star.
The long-time track official, always a friendly and familiar face of authority at Section II meets, died at the age of 72 of a cerebral hemorrhage, according to family friend Mark Therrien, the Fonda-Fultonville High School coach and Section II girls’ outdoor track coordinator.
Petersen, of Johnstown, is survived by her husband, Dave, the Section II boys’ outdoor track coordinator, and children TJ, Jennifer and Jeff.
Chris Petersen served as secretary of the Capital District Track Officials Inc. (CDTO) and stepped in as president of the organization when Ken Smith died about 20 years ago. In recent years, she was the CDTO assignor, in charge of putting together officiating crews to send to the various meets.
She also officiated at the state meet for 25 years.
The current CDTO president, Walt Eaton, said he was supposed to have given Chris Petersen a service pin for 35 years with the organization last June, but the end-of-year meeting was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She was the person that the kids felt comfortable going to because she was like a Mom figure to them and to everybody,” said Bob Headwell, president of the New York State State Track and Field and Cross Country Officials Association.
“No matter where the problem was, there could’ve been a problem at the throwing area, but the kids knew they could go to her and talk to her, and the problem would get taken care of. They just knew that she was the face that they could go to no matter what the problem was.”
“That is a very fair depiction of her by Bob,” Eaton said. “She mostly was the clerk at the larger meets, especially the indoor meets, so she had a personal touch with just about every kid at the track meet. And, yeah, if they needed a talking-to like Mom would talk to them, like scold them out, then she would give them a smile and a pat on the back.”
Petersen was known for her firm touch, but warm personality, a combination that came in handy when officiating meets, including big invitationals that bring in dozens of schools and hundreds of athletes and coaches.
As a meet clerk, she was responsible for making sure everything went smoothly and fairly in terms of entries and lane assignments.
“That was her all the way around,” Eaton said. “She liked what she did, and she let the athletes and the coaches know that she was on their side. She was very warm that way towards the track community.”
“You can’t find a better person,” Headwell said. “She did her job, she was caring, she was there for the athletes. She wasn’t there to make any money. If anything, it cost her to be an official.
“You get to the point where people come to you with a problem, and it might not end in the way that they wanted it to end, but they walk away happy. The coaches would come to her irate over something, and they could be 100% wrong with what they’re doing, but they’re walking away smiling and laughing, and they know they did what they needed to do and the whole situation moved on.
“That’s why the kids all felt comfortable going to her, because they knew that she was going to treat them with respect. And you know some of these kids out there in track and field, they can be hard-nosed kids. But they treated her with more respect than you can imagine. And that’s because she treated them with respect.”
Chris and Dave Petersen made Johnstown their home, but their children all starred for Fonda, where Dave Petersen, now retired, was a schoolteacher and coach.
“They don’t come any better than Chris, that’s for sure,” Therrien said. “It’s a great family, there’s great support there. It’s a very strong family, very closeknit, and so is the Section II community, so they’ll get through this.”
“I sent an email to the state presidents this morning, and the response has been unbelievable,” Headwell said.. “They all know what she contributed.”