Fourth teen awarded Epiphany cross - FOX 13 News

Fourth teen awarded Epiphany cross


The annual cross dive in Tarpon Springs has been taking place for more than a century, but something happened this year that's never been done before.

For the first time, four teenagers were all declared the winners of last Friday's dive.

It was chaotic and cold in the churning water as a second cross was thrown in by the Archbishop, a move some critics inside and out of the Greek Orthodox Church said may have happened too soon.

There was a frenzy, and now there is a fourth cross retriever.

"It's a happening, and it's a happening that God has his hands on, and that's the most important thing here," said Rev. Fr. Michael Eaccarino of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs.

And whoever had their hands on the coveted cross, in this case four young men are all feeling intense pride and accomplishment.

"When you break the surface of that water with that cross in the air, you are the retriever," said Michael Kouskoutis, who is one of the dive coordinators for the event. He said they should have waited a little longer, to throw out the second cross.

"The Archbishop should have not thrown two crosses and I will tell you, it probably won't happen again. If they have to stay out there an hour, it's not about how quick we get it," he said.

He added that a lot of the young divers said they couldn't see their hands in front of their faces underwater.

"My parents are overjoyed, ecstatic. I'm just honored to dive and it's an even bigger honor to be part of the four that are being honored as retrievers," said16-year-old Alexi Lake, who joined Louis Mailisand, Miros Petru and Jared Alissandratos, as part of the 'fab four' who made Epiphany history.

"It was like a mad frenzy for the first cross and when we realized no one came up with it, we were just like, what's going on?," said Lake.

Alexi's Mom, Eleftheria Lake, said it's an incredible honor for their family.

"We've been discussing this all weekend, and we've been praying and we really left it in the hands of God to just, in his due time, everything would be in God's time and we really just truly believe that," she said.

"If more than one person grabs the cross at the same time, who's gonna let go? Am I gonna let go? I'm not gonna let go," said Kouskoutis, who added, anyone who's upset there are four cross retrievers, has lost sight of the true meaning of the dive.

"It's not about who retrieves a cross, but the celebration of the Baptism of Christ," he said. "For some of these boys, it changes their life, it really does."

So, in the spirit of fairness, the Archbishop gave it to all four who had it in their grasp.

"Not that this is new, because this happened in 1947, 1974, 76, 79 and now 4 in the year 2012," said Fr. Eaccarino. "That's never happened before."

Fr. Eaccarino said the four young men told him they're fine with the outcome.

"None of us have any bad feelings whatsoever, you know, sometimes this is a little bit like little league," he said. "It's not the kids, but sometimes it's others who have some commentary on a situation."

Like the myriad of derogatory comments posted on Facebook, which he said, don't help anyone.

"We see all of the controversy being built up and exaggerated and exacerbated all through comments being made," he said. "If one boy gets it, glory be to God, and if fvie boys get it, glory be to God!"

Right now, the wait is on for three more cross trophies. They're being made locally. Then, there will be a big ceremony to award all four cross retrievers their coveted honors.

Fr. Eaccarino was quick to point out they've already received the biggest blessing of all.


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