Kate Burgess was honored at a NCHSAA ceremony on Saturday in Chapel Hill for her citizenship and sportsmanship.

Kate Burgess is the only one in her anatomy class at Orange that isn’t afraid to touch the brain.

The rest of her classmates wouldn’t go near it when it came to dissecting a brain during a recent session because their stomachs weren’t strong enough.

Burgess not only jumped at the chance to reach for the scalpel, she has pictures of the postmortem on her iPhone, and she’ll gladly show them off to anyone who asks. While some students may look at anatomy as a slog on their way to graduation, Burgess greets it with a blend of enthusiasm and humor.

“I’m a big nerd,” Burgess says with a laugh. “I do crazy research all the time for no reason. I find it interesting to observe.”

Recently, she’s been obsessed with prosthesis. She watches surgeries on YouTube and various university websites at home while many of her friends are catching up on whatever is on Netflix.

With a 4.46 grade point average, Burgess isn’t just planning to major in Biomedical Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill. She’s looking to enjoy it.

“I want to be interested in the thing that I pursue in my career,” Burgess said. “Lately, I’ve been obsessed with prosthesis and genetic engineering. I’m working toward neurological connections within prosthesis. I hope to get involved in a similar project. We’ll see how it goes.”

Burgess’ willingness to take on tasks that others may find unappealing sums up her athletic career at Orange. As a three-year varsity basketball player, she didn’t score often but was always willing to take charges during a big possession in a game. Last fall, she ran cross country with her teammate Grace Dively to get in shape for the long basketball season. Even now with basketball behind her, she’s participating in track and field.

On Saturday, Burgess was one of 31 students from across the state honored by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for the “Heart of a Champion” Award at the Sheraton-Chapel Hill Hotel. She was nominated by Orange women’s basketball coach B.J. Condron.

Nominees must have participated in at least one varsity sport during the 2018-19 academic year, have not been ejected from any contest, and must have demonstrated outstanding citizenship and sportsmanship during their high school careers.

Though she grew to be 5-foot-11 inches, Burgess almost didn’t play basketball at Orange. She had to be convinced by friends to try out. When Orange Coach B.J. Condron saw Burgess’ height during tryouts, he knew a future post presence when he saw it.

“Kate taught me how to pay attention to the little details,” Condron said.

Burgess was Orange’s starting center the past two years. This season, she started all 25 games for the Lady Panthers, who finished 19-6 and hosted Eastern Alamance in the opening round of the 3A state playoffs this season.

“He was an amazing person to look up to throughout my four years,” Burgess said of Condron. “He really made basketball a great experience for me overall.

Though basketball was a huge part of her time at Orange, it’s not the focus of her future as she prepares for a life of brainwork.

“I will definitely continue to show up my friends during basketball pickup games,” Burgess jokes. “Other than that, it will be a good thing to do in my free time. As far as playing for a team, I don’t think I’ll be on UNC’s team.”