Phyllis Ann Fox was born on Dec. 19, 1947 to Boyd and Dorothy Fox in Hickory, North Carolina. The second of five children, she has a talent for swimming and competed for her city team against surrounding cities, specializing in the butterfly. At age 17, she was awarded a National Science Foundation scholarship to study Marine Biology. She spent the summer in Sarasota, Florida and Bimini studying sharks and crustaceans. In 1966, she graduated from Hickory High. At that time, her favorite hobby was waterskiing for hours on end.
Phyllis graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. The following year she married David Mason and moved to Chatham County, where she put him through medical school by working as a quality control chemist for Reichold Chemicals. They moved to Wilmington in 1975 and had sons, David and Stephen. After converting from family breadwinner to stay at home mom, she turned to strenuous exercise to maintain physical and emotional health.
She entered the Wrightsville Beach Triathlon in 1986 and found it to be her calling. Over the next 33 years, she completed 244 triathlons of all distances. USA triathlon named her All American 15 times. She was ranked number 1 in the nation in her age group over a 10-year stretch beginning in the mid 1990’s.
Setting Phyllis apart was her competition on the world stage. She completed the Hawaii Ironman in 1992 and 1995. She placed fifth in 1998 in Lausanne Switzerland, second (winning silver medal for Team USA) in 2003 Queensland New Zealand, fifth in 2007 Hamburg Germany, and fourth in 2017 Rotterdam Germany.
Even though swimming was her specialty, she qualified in the World Duathlon (run/bike/run) Championships one year and finished sixth.
Phyllis served as the original coach of the YMCA triathlon team and also coached the Wilmington Athletic club team. She pioneered youth participation in the sport by convincing several race directors to suspend the 18 and over requirement, allowing her 12 and 14-year-old sons to compete in many races across the state. Current races now have competitors age 10 and up. Now retired from racing, Phyllis is the proud grandmother of four: Ben and Abigail Mason in Raleigh, and Ansley and Harrison Mason in Chapel Hill, and she enjoys watching them get involved in competitions.