© St. Petersburg Times, published January 2, 2002
TARPON SPRINGS -- For the young men diving for the cross, the week leading up to Epiphany is filled with tradition and anticipation. This year, diver Theophilos "Phil" Skandaliaris has agreed to share his thoughts in diary form as the event approaches.
Phil is an 18-year-old senior at Tarpon Springs High School, where he is a star center on the football team and a wrestler in the 215-pound weight class. He is the son of Bill and Karen Skandaliaris of East Lake and is a member of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
This is his third and final year as a cross diver. Three of his cousins retrieved the cross in previous years, and his dad dived for the cross in the early 1970s.
Today Phil begins his story, as told to Times staff writer Katherine Gazella:
The first two years I was really nervous. Especially the first year -- we had to run, all the way from Alt. 19. I didn't even feel like diving. I just wanted to go home and sleep after that.
I was right at the end (of the line). They go by age and alphabetical order. The second year I was right in the middle. I was on the third boat on the right side. That wasn't bad.
This year I'll be right up front. First dibs.
(From the boats) you can't see any sidewalk. It's just all people. You get kind of nervous. Butterflies start going.
I've learned it's Christ's baptism and the blessing of the waters. Back when sponging was big in Tarpon, they would bless the waters so they would come home safe.
You try to get a good spot. But there's no strategy. It's whoever God wants to get it.