With hearts pounding and muscles pushing as hard as they could, approximately 50 young men braved the cold water Sunday in the 2013 Epiphany Dive in Tarpon Springs.
As thousands looked on, it took less than 10 seconds for 16-year-old Vassilios Harding to emerge from Spring Bayou with the white cross.
"I want it and I want it bad that's what I was thinking," Harding explained. "When everyone was holding my hands I knew I had it."
As is tradition, fellow divers carried him through the streets of Tarpon Springs to the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
The entire way Harding fought back tears while holding the cross as high as he could.
"God actually puts it in your hands," Harding added. "I have to thank God for this."
The event itself celebrates the baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan. The one who retrieves the cross receives a blessing from the Archbishop which includes it's said, a year of good fortune.
"One thing I'm hoping for is to have my dad back. I want to see him right now," Harding said shortly after accomplishing the feat.
His father is a commercial fisherman and wasn't able to attend Sunday's dive. He is currently working near Key West but Harding's mother was there and needless to say was overcome with joy when her son emerged from the water with the cross.
"Your whole body shakes inside because you're just overjoyed," said Tina Harding. "It is kind of a spiritual feeling."
Vassilios claims coming away with the cross in such a short time frame has barely sunk in.
"It'll probably sink in [Monday] because I'm so happy," said the Tarpon Springs High School junior.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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