His teammates wander by, joking, chatting. They look at him. He looks up. No words are spoken, just silence. They pass by. He puts his head back into his hands, rubs his forehead and shuts his eyes.

When he's preparing for an event, some call him intense. Others say moody. But all agree that Herndon sophomore Marty Newsom is the best boys high school gymnast in Northern Virginia.

Two weeks ago in the Northwestern sectionals, Newsom won three individual events -- the horizontal bars, pommel horse and floor exercises en route to capturing the all-around honors with a score of 48. Friday, he bettered that as he won the Northern Region meet at South Lakes with a score of 49.90.

In that meet, Newsom won the high bars with a score of 8.35; took second in the floor exercise (8.90) and pommel horse (8.05) and finished third in the rings (7.35), vaulting (9.0) and parallel bars (8.25).

"He's consistent," said Herndon Coach Mike Comini. "He's never had a fall that I can remember."

And he's intense, a trait Comini said can hinder Newsom as well as help him.

"Sometimes he concentrates so hard, he gets locked in the wrong way and it works to his disadvantage," said Comini. "And if he starts poorly, he has a real problem with pulling himself out. Once he breaks that concentration he has got to fight for the rest of the meet.

"Gymnastics is 90 percent mental, especially when you get to the caliber that Marty is at. And Marty plays a lot on psyche."

"It's true," said Newsom. "I do get kind of moody during the competition. Even though I am part of the team -- and I like that I am involved with the team -- I do like to be by myself and think.

"I try to block everything out. That's why I need to be alone. When I block things out, I do well. When I hear things, I lose control."

Case in point: It is only minutes before Newsom is to compete on the high bars, an event Comini said is one of his strongest. Newsom sits alone. He works his way through the routine over and over. By the time he nails his dismount with a double flip, Newsom has already completed the sequence countless times in his mind.

Once again, it pays off. His score of 8.35 is ranked first.

Newsom, who grew up in Virginia, spent the past three years in England where his father, who works for the Air Force, was transferred. Now, back again, he is bringing new excitement to area gymnastics.

"He is great for the sport of gymnastics," said Bob Graumann, who has been coaching gymnastics for 15 years at South Lakes. "It's great because it creates interest in the sport.

"The wonderful thing about Marty is that he's not afraid to throw the big tricks. He's extremely aggressive."

"Watching him on the high bars is a pleasure," said Comini. "He's got the basics down. He's got a good giant swing and he gets total body extension."

Newsom, who is 5 feet 7, has been a gymnast for eight years. The 16-year-old feels he has the physical as well as mental toughness needed to excel. And if the event is a little on the dangerous side, so much the better.

"I really like the excitement, the risk, the challenge of gymnastics," he said. But if there is a daredevil side to Newsom, so is there a part that must have rigid organization. If things don't go as planned, Newsom tends to get unnerved.

"I set up schedules for the day and for the week. If that schedule gets messed up, I get really angry," he said. "I need a rigid plan of events. I need to be in control.

"It's the same with gymnastics. I have a certain way of going about my routines and if I'm forced to change that, it messes me up."

That, however, hasn't happened much. And Newsom and his school continue through what looks to be a wonderful romance.

"He's brought a different standard of gymnastics to Herndon," said Comini. "He's brought a whole new set of tricks to the gym that the kids weren't exposed to. And the great thing is, he doesn't even realize his full potential at this stage."

"He's great," said Herndon senior Shane Eddy, who finished first on parallel bars in the region meet. "He's confident, and under pressure, he always comes through. With the amount of difficulty in his routines, once he starts getting that together, next year he should be scoring in the mid-50s."

But Graumann may have put it best when, watching Newsom on the pommel horse, he said, "He's the best in the state of Virginia and the beautiful thing about it is, he's only a sophomore. He's got the capabilities of being one of the best around."