Tess Masselink ’21 first participated in cross-country races at the age of 8. She may be a little fuzzy on the details surrounding her finishing times in those races, but there is one thing she remembers well.

“I remember there were days when it was hailing during the race and we were showered with ice,” she says with a laugh. “It definitely froze you.”

Ten years later, and Masselink has traded those icy runs in her hometown of Cornwall, England, for humid runs at the College of Charleston, where she continuously set records in cross-country and track and field.

It seems like Masselink has always been on the move. She was born in Australia, but her family moved to England while she was young. When she was not running, Masselink loved participating in competitive horse riding. When she had to sell her horse in her early teens, she turned her full attention to cross-country running.

She quickly excelled in the sport, winning or placing in various races across England.

As graduation drew closer, Masselink started looking at colleges in the United States. After contacting several coaches across the U.S., she narrowed her decision down to three schools. The last school she toured was the College of Charleston. She was impressed.

“I loved the warmth and friendliness of the people here,” she says. “There is a history to this city that reminded me of home, and I felt embraced by the culture and the team.”

Masselink’s impact was felt immediately.

During cross-country season her freshman year, she won the Buccaneer Open and the Charleston Classic. She also finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Cross-Country Championship – becoming only the second Cougar to place that high at a conference championship.

Later that year, she made her mark again, this time at the 2018 CAA Track and Field Championships, earning a bronze medal in her first collegiate steeplechase with the fourth fastest time in school history.

Her sophomore year was even better. She reentered the College record books when she crossed the finish line in the mile event with a time of 4:56.02, the second-fastest time in school history. In another meet, Masselink crossed the finish line in a 3K indoor race in 10:04.56 and earned another second in the record books. In cross-country, she took all-conference honors when she finished the 6K time with a time of 21:32.9, the fifth-fastest in school history at that distance.

Masselink had high hopes for her junior year, but those hopes were soon dashed when the pandemic shut down both the track and cross-country seasons. She made up for the lost season, however, when competition resumed this year. In March, she broke a 10-year-old school record in the 6K and made the all-conference team for the third time in her career at the CAA Cross-Country Championships. She also won the ExCEL (Excellence in Collegiate Education and Leadership) Outstanding Female Student-Athlete of the Year Award.

Now, Masselink has her sights set on another finish line: the end of her college career. She graduated in May with a double major (and near perfect GPA) in biology and studio arts and is planning on attending graduate school.

As for running, she doesn’t plan to give that up anytime soon.

“I will always be a runner,” she says. “I think it is the most organic sport you can do.”

Photo by Mike Ledford