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Thu. February 28, 2013 | Times Staff

Tarpon Springs has always boasted a mascot unique in high school sports: the Spongers. It is a name that has resonated within the community and received national acclaim.

Now the mascot is considered one of the best in the state, possibly the country.

USA Today selected the Spongers as one of the five best mascots in the state in a contest where fans can vote for the winner. The Spongers' state competition includes the Cornerstone Charter Fighting Ducks, Key West Conchs, Lakeland Dreadnaughts and the Laurel Hill Hoboes.

There were 255 mascots selected (five per state, along with Washington D.C.). Voting in the state round runs until March 5. The 51 winners will advance to the second round, where they will be divided among six regions. The regional round is March 6-14.

The six winners will compete March 15-25 for the chance to be named the best high school sports mascot in America.

The national winner receives $2,000 for its athletic department. Second place will be awarded $1,000, third ($500), fourth ($250) and fifth ($100).

The athletic teams at Tarpon Springs are called the Spongers to pay homage to the community’s tradition of sponge diving. David Letterman once listed the Spongers among his top 10 lists for high school mascots.

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