Natalie Severy has worked on both sides of the architecture business.
She's lived in New York and Colorado designing gaudy buildings and upscale homes that feature amenities that many people can not afford.
But it's her current job with MacKenzie Architects, a small firm in Vermont, that Severy finds rewarding. Severy is an architect consultant for MacKenzie, which focuses on affordable and sustainable senior living and multi-family housing.
"I like that they have a project in the Gulf," said Severy, who was a state champion runner under her maiden name Florence at Collins Hill. "I lived in Colorado and New York designing high-end houses. People would want $300,000 countertops and that's just crazy. This is more houses I could see myself living in and are not extravagant and don't waste resources."
Before the Collins Hill girls cross country program ever became a state power, Severy was the most dominant runner in the county and state. She was the Eagles' first cross country state champion in 1999 and won three more titles in track in the 3,200-meter run.
As a freshman she was the only Eagle runner to qualify for the cross country state meet. Now Collins Hill routinely qualifies its entire team as it has won the last six state championships.
"It was really lonely," said Severy of running alone at state.
Severy was a three-time Gwinnett County champ in cross country, leading the Eagles to their first team title in 1998. In the 30 years of the county meet, Severy is one of three runners to win three consecutive county crowns.
"I was really proud of it and it was a lot of hard work," Severy said.
The 2000 Collins Hill grad also was also an accomplished runner in track. She won three 3,200 state titles and finished second her senior year. She also placed second in the 1,600 twice.
Her accomplishments in running garnered the attention of the University of Colorado, one of the top running programs in the nation.
"I was blown away by the mountains and the really healthy living," Severy said. "People just wanted to be outside. It was an outdoor environment and very laid back."
Severy missed her freshman season at Colorado with a stress fracture, but came back strong her sophomore year to earn all-region honors.
By the time she left the Boulder school, Severy was a three-time all-conference and all-region selection in cross country. She also earned All-American honors twice. But her greatest accomplishment was leading Colorado to the national title her senior year.
"It was awesome," Severy said. "Probably the coolest thing I've ever been a part of."
Severy was also a decorated running in track. She earned All-American honors in 2003 in the 5,000-meter run and in the steeplechase in 2005.
Severy met her husband Jonathan, who also ran at Colorado, in college and is quick to point out who was the better runner.
"I was in college," Severy said. "He was really good and was an All-American. But I qualified for nationals. It was always important to get to that championship level."
After college Severy still stayed involved with competitive running. She placed sixth at the USATF in the steeplechase. She qualified for the event again in 2006, but a serious foot injury forced to her to stop running for two years.
The injury allowed her to focus on her career and take up new hobbies like skiing and yoga.
"Being from Georgia that was pretty horrifying the first time I went skiing, but it's fun now," Severy said.
Her husband Jonathan is at medical school at the University of Vermont studying neurology and the couple is expecting their first child in February. So for now Severy plans to call Vermont home.
"We're still really actively involved," Severy said. "I'm looking forward to being a mother, but I want to get back out there and run competitively again."
SideBar: The Severy File
Name: Natalie Florence Severy
Current job: Architect consultant for Steve MacKenzie Architecture in Vermont
Education: Graduated from Collins Hill in 2000; earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Colorado in 2005; working on master's degree from Norwich University
Background: Was a four-time state champion runner at Collins Hill; won cross country state title in 1999 and was a three-time 3,200-meter champ in track; was a four-time All-American at the University of Colorado - twice in cross country, twice in track; won Big 12 Championship in cross country in 2003; led Colorado to cross country national title in 2004.
Family: Husband Jonathan; expecting first child in February.