The cheering section for the Blue Devils' most recognizable fan - who, despite appearances is quite the athlete - is growing.
This spring, Steve Anastasio could often be found rolling his way to the softball field at Coginchaug High School to watch the Blue Devils play, including one game in which the team's ace, Mari Handley, pitched a no-hitter against Housatonic.
"She should have had it," says Anastasio, who began following the school when former girls' basketball coach Tony Calcagni began coaching at Coginchaug.
"I respected the way he coached his teams, and he was very nice to me. He went to Mercy this year and I've even been to a couple of games to watch them."
Anastasio says "hands down" basketball is his favorite sport to watch, but he's grown to enjoy following all of the athletes who wear royal blue, red and white.
"A couple of players on the basketball team were on the softball team. I've been to ten games this year, at least, road or home. Soccer, I went to two or three road games, rain or shine," he says, recalling the day he was given an umbrella by a coach after getting rained on while watching the team.
Anastasio, who lives in Haddam (he was born in Rockville, CT and lived in Durham for a brief time before moving to Haddam as a child), is a graduate of Haddam-Killingworth High School.
"It gets a little dicey when H-K plays Coginchaug," says Anastasio, who's not afraid to admit that he bleeds Blue Devils blue. "They pretty much all know."
While some athletes at the school are on a first name basis with Anastasio, the 36-year-old says others have gotten to know him personally. One athlete in particular, he says, convinced him to challenge himself.
"I met Amanda Boyle. She kinda kicked my butt. She said "why don't you do this, it will be good for you."
Born with spina bifida - a condition that has left his back in the shape of "a boomerang" - Anastasio has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life.
But with the Coginchaug senior's support, Anastasio competed in six wheelchair races in 2010 and is preparing for his third race this year, the BlumShapiro 5K in Cromwell this weekend.
"I initially fought her on it. I would come up with every excuse. But I'm glad she did it, because its been a lot of fun," says Anastasio, who now has his own fans lining up on the sidelines to cheer for him.
"At the Durham [Washington Trail 4K] race I was in the zone. I didn't realize it but they had signs. I didn't find out until Nancy [Boyle] showed me the pictures."
During the race, Anastasio reached speeds of 15 miles per hour, something he credits to the custom made racing wheelchair he now uses.
"I was flying."
The six-foot long wheelchair was made by Maxim Mobility in Hamden and paid for by a grant from the Obie Harrington-Howes Foundation.
Anastasio's father, an outdoor trail runner, accompanies Steve in all of the races.
The younger Anastasio says he'd like to see more wheelchair bound racers participate.
"Get out and do something, to prove to people you may be in a wheelchair, but you're not done. You can still do things that you may not have thought of."
Editor's Note: The BlumShapiro 5K race begins at 8:30 on Saturday, June 11 at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.