Sarasota teen retrieves Epiphany cross

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - For more than a century, the Greek Orthodox community in the Bay Area has met in Tarpon Springs for Epiphany day.

The annual event celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist.

As is tradition, young men, 16 to 18 years old, dive into the water of Spring Bayou to retrieve a white cross.

This year, 43 young men dove into the water and 18-year-old Peter Smith came up with the cross.

Wearing just t-shirts and swim suits, the teens gathered outside Saint Nicholas Cathedral to carry out a 108 year old tradition.

Each year, the teenagers take the plunge into Spring Bayou after climbing into a boat with thousands looking on, and diving for the cross thrown into the water by the archbishop.

Smith described what it was like to take part in the dive.

"I went down about halfway to where I thought the cross was and just started swimming across the bottom and slowly running out of breath and I said ok just a little bit further and I saw it," he said.

The one who surfaces with the cross is said to have a year of blessings for himself and his family.

This year, Smith popped out of the water with an expression of disbelief.

"I remember I was thinking, 'O.K. I'm going to wake up from this dream now,'" Smith said.

His dream was a reality.

In keeping with tradition, the rest of the young men put him on their shoulders and walked him back to the church to celebrate and pray.

"We're all friends out there and you know it's not who wins, it's more important about the experience," Smith said. Smith's mother told us his uncle retrieved the cross back in the 1970s.

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