Solana Beach athlete to raise funds for kids in need through Ragnar Relay Race


By Karen Billing

Andy Hemmerich and his teammates will run 200 miles for great education. Along with five others representing his tutoring company Hammer Prep, the Torrey Pines High School graduate and Solana Beach resident will run from Huntington Beach to Coronado Island in the Ragnar Relay Race starting this Saturday, April 21.

The team is competing in the race not just for the grueling physical challenge of it; they will also be raising money for the Monarch School for at-risk and homeless students.

“It’s a really powerful organization in terms of using education as a vehicle to helping students become successful members of society,” Hemmerich said. “Education has given me so much of my life, it’s amazing. I’ve had so many opportunities, seen several different countries and made so many friendships, all through my education. Essentially, it’s the reason I have a business today.”

Hemmerich believes strongly in the power of education, the great rewards it can bring and the many directions in which it can take a person.

“That’s why I put my stake in education and why I want to give back to kids that are underserved…I don’t think there’s a better match for us in terms of giving back,” Hemmerich said of Monarch.

Hemmerich was inspired to do the Ragnar race by San Diego businessman and philanthropist Blair Cannon, who also combines endurance challenges with charity. Cannon swam the Catalina Channel last year to raise $100,000 for Monarch School. This June, Cannon is swimming 28.5 miles around Manhattan with a goal of raising $150,000 for the school.

The Ragnar is a 200-mile overnight relay race run over two days and one night from Huntington Beach to Coronado. Teams are allowed 12 members, but the Hammer Prep squad will do it with six.

Hemmerich will run 39 of those 200 miles of the relay. He will run six legs of the race, the longest leg being 10 miles and the most brutal one, including some “significant hills,” as he races inland from Huntington Beach.

At some points in the race, the runners may be running alone in the middle of the night with just a head lamp, reflective vest and a cell phone just in case they get lost on the course.

Hammer Prep is running as part of a corporate division that includes local companies such as Qualcomm and Sharp, all raising funds for Monarch. The corporate division goal is to raise a total of $160,000 and, as of Monday, they were just short of that.

Hammer Prep alone has already raised nearly $5,000.

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.

After his soccer career ended, Hemmerich began tutoring in 2001 and enjoyed it so much he decided to start Hammer Prep the next year, the name coined from one of his old nicknames. At first he had tutoring centers at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center and at the Boys and Girls Club of San Dieguito’s Polster branch, but soon the business evolved to strictly one-on-one tutoring, which is what Hammer Prep specializes in today.

While Hammer Prep offers tutoring in any high school subject, SAT and ACT prep is its main focus, using full-time, professional tutors and a curriculum developed by Hammer.

“It’s easily the most important test a high school kid takes and it can be a highly intimidating test,” Hemmerich said.

Hammer tries to take out the intimidation and with one-on-one preparation help students to be conditioned to be successful test takers.

For the last five years, Hammer Prep has also offered ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) test prep, the test that students must take to be accepted into private schools such as Bishop’s, Francis Parker or Pacific Ridge.

“It’s completely different than any test these students see in school,” Hemmerich said of the somewhat “scary” test that looks very much like a SAT for the younger set.

Hammer Prep has also partnered with the Shane Walton Foundation, founded by a Bishop’s grad who went on to play football at Notre Dame and in the NFL, and who has made it his mission to help the education of underserved students. Through their efforts, Hammer Prep is able to give ISEE tutoring to students who might not have been able to receive it, giving them the same advantage as others to access higher education.

“The kids this year just hammered the test,” said Hemmerich, noting that the successful test scores resulted in scholarships to Bishop’s.

Hemmerich officially committed to training for the Ragnar race two months ago, which meant taking a break from his adult amateur soccer team, the San Diego County Soccer League’s Nomads.

“I love running. It’s what keeps me sane,” said Hemmerich, who boosted his mileage from 15 to 25 miles a week to 30 to 50 miles a week in preparation for Ragnar. “It’s an important part of my life and I run quite a bit to stay one-tenth as fit as my wife, a professional triathlete.”

He hopes he is ready for his 39 miles and relates this Ragnar challenge to what his company does every day. He knows first hand through Hammer Prep that dedication, preparation and focus can bring success. Andy’s teammates include Zach Negin (Hammer Prep employee), Andy’s brother Jason Hemmerich, William Blore, Caela Timinsky and Alec Fillmore.

Learn more about Hammer Prep at