Kelson Borisenko understands firsthand the value of the Manitoba High School Field Lacrosse League (MHSFLL). The hard-working defender and midfielder, who started playing the sport when he was eight, plied his trade in the early 2010s as part of a loaded West Kildonan roster that had four players move on to play college lacrosse.
“[Lacrosse] took off for me when I reached high school. I think the Manitoba High School Field Lacrosse League (MHSFLL) is the longest-running MLA-sanctioned event for a reason, because they do it the right way,” he noted.
“Putting the right teams out there and competing at a high level is super exciting. I’ll never forget putting on the West Kildonan jersey every game and representing my school and being able to compete against Garden City and those schools that we always had a high rivalry with.”
Borisenko was part of back-to-back undefeated city and provincial championship teams with the Wolverines in grades nine and ten. He went to-to-toe with the likes of Keenan Koswin from Garden City, who later played NCAA Division 1 lacrosse with UMass Lowell.
The sport wasn’t just for high-level lacrosse veterans though. West Kildonan also had a number of high-level multi-sport athletes such as Adam Brooks, who was recently picked up by the Winnipeg Jets.
“He ended up being one of the best defencemen on our team. So a guy who had never played lacrosse before, but was sufficient at another sport ended up being our best defenceman and a guy that we counted on every game,” noted Borisenko.
“It doesn’t take just lacrosse players to play lacrosse, that’s the cool thing about the sport. There’s a position for everybody. Someone who’s small and quick like me has a role, and somebody who’s big and strong has a different role.”
From a young age, Borisenko knew he wanted to play college lacrosse at a high level. It consumed his life, both in the field and the classroom and his hard work paid off.
First, he attended The Hill Academy as a senior. The private school in Ontario was known for having one of the best lacrosse programs in Canada. It allowed him to have greater exposure to NCAA schools, one of which was Manhattan College, an NCAA Division 1 program in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). He was a three-year captain for Manhattan and of the MAAC’s best defenders playing in a man-down defence.
His schedule while in the states was demanding. He had workouts from 6-7 am, practice from 7:30-10 and class during the day. If it was a game week, he also had film at night and meetings.
“Playing four hours of lacrosse a day and taking a full class schedule as well can be a lot, but by already having these good routines in place of managing my time effectively, it allowed me to be successful at that next level,” he noted. “The Manitoba High School Field Lacrosse League allowed me see what that looked like before I got to college.”
Borisenko’s hark work earned him a pro contract, as he was drafted by the Saskatchewan Rush in the fourth round of the 2020 National Lacrosse League draft. He’s also given back to the sport in a number of ways. He previously ran lacrosse clinics on Chief Peguis reserve, which helped him realize that he wanted to become a teacher after graduating from college.
“As soon as I walked in with lacrosse sticks and was excited to be there and show them things, the light that was put into their eyes and that I could see was the reason that I wanted to become a teacher and to be able to give back and to give opportunity,” he recalled.
“To have the ability to do that through sport I think is so important, too. Lacrosse, we call it the medicine game, because it heals us and makes us feel better. I think the ability to give back is everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s given me so much. It’s taken me to New York and to Toronto and so to be able to give back to that same population that grew me and gave me, I’m excited to give back.”
Borisenko is also a co-founder of Legends Lacrosse, along with Cory Henkewich and Brett Morrison, who are coaching Manitoba’s box lacrosse team at the Canada Games. The program focuses on local grassroots and high-performance development.
“We saw what lacrosse has done for the three of us and we really wanted to be able to do that for other people too. During the pandemic we were all sitting at home and no lacrosse was going on and we wanted to make a difference. We started brainstorming some ideas and really dug our teeth into Legends Lacrosse. We’re really focusing on grassroots right now and trying to build the sport a tonne, and doing that through the MHSFLL would be a great avenue as well to help grow participants and grow interest in the sport.”