On that note, I dropped out of highschool when I was ~16 and attended 3 semesters at my local community college with a 4.0 GPA. At that point the college advisors discovered I didn't have a highschool diploma and kicked me out.
So... I went back to highschool for 2 "semesters" in which I skipped one day short of the minimum # to pass, slept through most classes, and barely scraped by with D's to pass. I pissed off a lot of the faculty because of how little I gave a shit. One teacher in particular came down hard on me and gave me an F, smiling as he said something like "I guess I will see you next year".
Keep in mind, no one at my highschool knew I had college credits ( or that I had snuck back into community college and was still taking classes via the "adult" continuing education program ). So when it came down to sit with my high school guidance counselor to be told I was not going to graduate, I handed her an unofficial transcript of all the "AP" classes I had taken.
This created an absolute shitstorm because they could not, not graduate me ( I had ~54 accredited hours, mostly in science and very little in grammar/english with a 4.0 ). Furthermore when they added them into my grading, despite my poor performance at the high school, I knocked the current valedictorian out of the water. The poor girl who was valedictorian had already been awarded the scholarship for the achievement plus she had been practicing her graduation ceremony speech for a couple months. To be clear, they didn't want to take the scholarship away from the Valedictorian of my class or have me make a graduation speech... so I solved that by pointing out that I didn't meet the Valedictorian moral code ( I regularly slept at my girlfriend's apartment, smoked cigarettes, skipped 88 days in the last year, and drank alcohol underage ). One of the few times I've seen a lot of people happy that I was a delinquent.
Oh and Mr. Anderson ( the asshole who mocked me about coming "back next year" ) was the one who handed me my diploma on graduation ( the school system demanded I attend but didn't warn him that I was graduating. ) That was, my graduation day, the best day of my public school "career".
tl;dr Valedictorian status is worth money AND increases your odds of getting into college.
tc:tl;dr No one gives a shit about who won silver or bronze in the race to the finish line.