It has become somewhat of a normality to see runners in the Tigard area. Whether it be jogging trails or running sidewalks; sometimes for getting their daily dose of exercise or just training for an upcoming race.
One of these adamant runners, 18-year-old Oscar Nieves Lira, became so passionate about the sport that he decided to create a documentary about his unique journey through running.
Oscar, a recent graduate from Tigard High School, came to be the cream of the crop among the Tigard High Cross Country team as well as the long-distance division on the Track team.
When he came to America three and a half years ago during the middle of his freshman year, his running stagnated. A more important issue had come up: the adjustment to American society. He spent the first year in the new world understanding the environment and learning the English language, of which he wasn’t very familiar with.
By the time he had caught up, only a few years remained to accomplish his aspirations. “I had to cram the whole process of running that other [high school] runners had in five years into two years,” Nieves Lira explained. “My goal was to compete in the highest league of my class.”
If an individual advances to state or the next level, they did not do it alone.
–Oscar Nieves Lira
Starting back up in running wasn’t as simple as it seemed. Halfway through his first track season, he injured himself as a result of racing while wearing shoes and this was the point at which he ditched them entirely opting for a seemingly simpler shoe-less approach (this was only on tracks or grassy fields, otherwise he would use running sandals).
Although he wasn’t at the top of his class when he began running in America, by his senior year, he was the only state-bound competitor from the Tigard High Cross Country team. Many fellow athletes even thought of him as the most influential student on the team since he assumed the role of team captain.
“The upperclassmen made me feel welcome when I was starting my running career. I felt like this was something that was lacking while I was an upperclassman, so I gave them tips, motivation, advice on how to correct running form, some stretches and what exercises to do,” he said.
This aspect in his final year on the team led to a swift reunion with the underclassmen he came to know previously. The coaches became fond of his influence and invited him back during the summer to give a speech to the current team.
“I narrated my journey as a runner and how I grew from that. My speech was tied to the idea that they are a team and a team is not a single individual. If an individual advances to state or the next level, they did not do that alone,” Nieves Lira said.
As this section of his life came to a close and before he starts his running career anew at the Division 1 level (the most competitive collegiate division) for Portland State University, he wanted to immortalize the past few years and what got his start.
This wasn’t done with a simple picture book or a written dialogue, but he decided to go all out for the creation of a documentary. “It’s a passion project that I wanted to do. I wanted to tell a story and I wanted to tell my story,” he said.
To do so, he gathered nine Tigard High students along with himself and another graduate to put his ideas in motion and create what he calls The Journey of the Deer (which is a “tireless” animal).
The purpose? He wanted to give closure to his journey thus far and the progress that he had made. He searches for the reason for why he runs and perhaps even tries to act as an inspiration for others to find their reason, whether it be the same or different.
“In the future, I want to hit qualifying for the Pan American Games. I want to compete at those levels and possibly even achieve the Olympic level, which is going to be very challenging, and very hard. I may not end up doing it, but I’d like to.”
To see his story, you can watch “The Journey of the Deer” on Nieves Lira’s Instagram page (@oscar_nieveslira) when it releases in late September.