By Karen Billing
For the second year in a row, Solana Beach resident Andy Hemmerich took part in the 192-mile Ragnar Relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego, running through the night, fighting delirium and exhaustion to raise funds for the Monarch School for homeless and at-risk youth.
The runners took off from Huntington Beach at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 19, and finished on Saturday, April 20, at 2:19 p.m.
While the average number of runners on a team is 12, Hemmerich competed with a team of six, deemed an ultra team, and for the second year in a row they won the ultra division, finishing in 25 hours and 19 minutes.
“We didn’t take it easy,” Hemmerich said.
Hemmerich’s team represented his tutoring business Hammer Prep in Sorrento Valley and included Del Mar resident Jordan Meltzer, Chuck McKeown, Caela Timinsky, Liz Johnson and Alec Fillmore.
Last year Hemmerich’s team was part of 10 teams racing to benefit Monarch School, known as the Qualcomm 200 Miles for Monarch. This year the number of participating teams swelled to 25 and they raised more than $350,000 for the Monarch School.
“It was a really, really good year,” Hemmerich said of the effort.
At the launch party earlier this year for the fundraiser, San Diego Padres’ Will Venable attended with his student mentor at Monarch, Jackie. She was so emotional and touched that so many strangers were willing to raise money for her school that she recruited and organized her own team of Monarch students to run Ragnar as well.
Hemmerich’s wife Katya Meyers, a professional triathlete, offered to help coach the Monarch team and they were able to secure a sponsorship from Asics who outfitted the team with new gear to run in.
“They’re good kids, they all have really positive attitudes and they will tell you straight up that they are determined to break the cycle of homelessness,” Hemmerich said. “They say ‘We’ve chosen education and we’re going to break the cycle.’ It’s neat to be a part of that.”
Hemmerich grew up in Del Mar and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 1996. He played soccer for Stanford and graduated with a degree in economics before launching a pro-soccer career that included stops in Major League Soccer with the San Jose Earthquakes and abroad with a New Zealand team.
He founded his tutoring company Hammer Prep in 2002 after the conclusion of his soccer career. He said education has always been an important cause for him to support, especially the kids at Monarch.
“The return on education is infinite, you can’t really define how far education can take you,” Hemmerich said. “The reality is you’re taking students at Monarch that face adversity to the highest degree and allowing them the opportunity to be educated and reach a higher level of education. In the 2012 class, all of the students went on to higher education. If you can use education to keep kids out of trouble, to go on to higher levels of education and become productive members of society, it’s huge. And the bottom line is it feels good to help them.”